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Pentatonix set to bring harmonies to the Ithaca's State Theatre

5:47 PM, Feb 20, 2013

Written by Jim Catalano Correspondent

Fast-rising a cappella quintet Pentatonix will make their Ithaca debut Monday night at the State Theatre.

In fall 2011, Pentatonix won NBC’s “The Sing-Off” in the third and final season of the show. Last year, the group released its first two albums, “PTX Vol.1” and “PTXmas” while selling out most of its first national tour and garnering millions of views on YouTube. And 2013 is already off to a fast start, with the group working on its third album while heading out on an even bigger tour. All in all, it’s been quite a ride for a group that only came together right before its first appearing on “The Sing-Off.”

“It’s been pretty insane,” said Scott Hoying, the Texas native who put together the group for “The Sing-Off,” in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles. “I had no idea this would be what I was doing. Back in high school, I was planning on coming to L.A. to chase the dream of a solo artist, but I didn’t expect things to happen so quickly. I didn’t know I’d be part of a group but the perfect pathway opened up, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Hoying is joined in Pentatonix by Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan and beatboxer Kevin “K.O.” Olusola — all are in their early to mid-20s. Hoying, Maldonado and Grassi knew each other while growing up in Arlington, Texas; they hooked up with Kaplan and Olusola in California.

“We have different backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations, but we all get along so well,” Hoying said. “It’s a cool testament — deep down, I feel like all humans are the same and music brings us all together. And that’s why we chose the name Pentatonix — it’s a universal scale used in all cultures of music and understood by everyone.”

The quintet’s not-so-secret weapon is Olusola, whose beatboxing gives their songs a rock edge. “ A lot of times you need that rhythm, especially for that mainstream audience — you need that beat that people can dance to,” Hoying said. “Kevin’s beat boxing is absolutely unreal — he makes huge sounds with his mouth that seem like they’re produced in a studio. That helps makes our vocal arrangements sound more like a full track.”

The group has raised its game for the current tour. “We wanted to up the production and really make it a show, so we added lights, a big backdrop and stairs so we could have levels. We also hired a choreographer. He doesn’t really teach us to full-out dance — we can’t really dance intensely while we’re singing — but we have staging and light choreography, just to make it more aesthetically pleasing to the audience. It really has brought our show together.”

Ariel Arbisser, who sings with Ithaca a cappella group The Funx, has twice seen Pentatonix in concert. “They may not be the first a cappella group to bring a cappella to the ‘mainstream,’ but they are the first group in the popular music scene to play with the full range of what the voice is capable of and really do ‘contemporary style a cappella’ — moving from doo-wop, street corner, or choral performance into dub step and more experimental singing,” she said. “They put on a flashy, exciting, fun, and inspiring show that all ages can get into and can convince anyone that a cappella is cool.”

To learn more about the band, visit Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show are $22.50-$36.50 and available at the State Theatre Box Office, by calling 27-STATE or online at