Pentatonix’s Avi Kaplan draws young musicians to UT

A colleague connection brings vocal bass Kaplan to the University of Tennessee for an a cappella workshop

Avi Kaplan, vocal bass for Grammy award-winning a cappella ensemble Pentatonix, headlined the second annual Contemporary A Cappella Clinic presented by the University of Tennessee School of Music Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017.

The UT choral department invited high school students from across the region to Cox Auditorium for a day filled with performances, Q&A sessions and singing Pentatonix arrangements.

Interim Associate Director of Choral Activities Jaclyn Johnson asked friend Kaplan to host. This marked Kaplan’s second workshop at UT.

UT Singers were aided by Kaplan on
Avi Kaplan (left) aids UT Singers on “Sorry” during the clinic on the Cox Auditorium stage Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The group worked with Kaplan the previous afternoon in private rehearsals. Photo: Lexie Little/JEM 250
Kaplan first worked with UT’s three a cappella ensembles. VOLume, ReVOLution and UT Singers rehearsed with Kaplan Friday ahead of their performances at the clinic.

UT Singer Nicole Doyal said, “it was a very efficient rehearsal but also laid back and fun. I’m so grateful he came to UT.”

Local ensembles form Bearden and Seymour High Schools were chosen from YouTube contest submissions to perform and learn from Kaplan.

Teaching was once an aspiration for Kaplan, and through workshops, he is able to educate young singers.

Avi Kaplan demonstrates the ease of arranging music. Photo: Lexie Little/JEM 250
Avi Kaplan demonstrates the ease of arranging music. His advice was to embrace individual style. Photo: Lexie Little/JEM 250
“My goal was to be a choir director,” Kaplan said of his college career. “Eventually, I would love to do that.”

Students were not the only ones excited to learn. Many choral directors also participated in the clinic.

Seymour High School Choral Director Jean Burkhart said, “it’s another genre I can cover within the choral department as a way to get young people interested in all kinds of music.”

Kaplan wanted the students to be inspired and believe in themselves noting even he “just sees [himself] as a big choir nerd.”

Students ended the day by singing Pentatonix original “Run to You” with Kaplan.

Sinceer Truss awaits her vocal entrance. Photo: Lexie Little/JEM 250
Sinceer Truss awaits her vocal entrance on “Run to You.” The song, a Pentatonix original, was a favorite of many in attendance. Photo: Lexie Little/JEM 250
Pentatonix gained fame on NBC’s “The Sing-Off” and has become a worldwide phenomenon.

The ensemble recently worked with East Tennessee country music legend Dolly Parton. Their collaboration on Parton’s hit “Jolene” was nominated for a Grammy award last month.

“She was there 30 minutes early,” Kaplan said. “She hugged us, and she was super sweet. To be able to keep that humble heart is something that speaks volumes and can really set an example for the world.”

Kaplan and Pentatonix will learn if they won their third Grammy award Feb. 12. at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. The event will be televised at 8 p.m. on CBS.

And as for the future of the group, Kaplan said, “I think that we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

The UT School of Music hopes to host Kaplan again in the future.