Everyone knows that CMU has some famous alumni (Holly Hunter, Blair Underwood, and so on.) who have made their mark on TV, movies, and Broadway. Typically this success comes after four years at CMU, but Ethan Crystal, a freshman majoring in vocal performance, was on TV before he even started his CMU education. His a cappella group, Soul’d Out was featured on NBC’s The Sing-Off. The show is hosted and judged by some famous faces, including Nick Lachey, Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men, and Sarah Bareilles.
Ethan and his a cappella group first got involved with the show after they placed second at the ICHSA (International Championship of High School Acappella, in the same vein as the ICCAs which two groups at Carnegie Mellon, The Originals and Counterpoint, compete in) in April. Following their strong finish, they decided to audition for The Sing- Off in June. They were accepted and the rest, including being called “adorable” by the famous singer-songwriter Sarah Bareilles, is history. Aside from his moment with Bareilles, Ethan said the most memorable part of the experience was the performance itself and that “knowing there will be millions of people seeing you leave your hearts on it is like nothing else.” Ethan also said that the support of the arts by his community and school district were crucial to the group’s success.
Reality TV can prompt certain connotations in the minds of many people, but Ethan said the most unexpected aspect of the experience was “how real it was. There are a lot of shows out there now that try to push the ‘reality’ aspect when the truth is that everything’s scripted and planned…but it wasn’t about that at all. None of the groups know who’s getting eliminated; we just all went and had a great time,” he said.
Ethan has been singing since 7th grade and says that his experience on The Sing-Off allowed him to grow as a director and musician: “The biggest thing I gained was probably the experience of working with the talented musical directors and arrangers for the show–Deke Sharon, Chris Diaz, Ben Bram, and Rob Dietz mostly,” said Ethan. “Especially as high schoolers, their direction and musical ideas in rehearsals were mind- blowing. I feel like I really grew as a director and a musician while I was there.” Only a freshman, Ethan Crystal has already worked with artists others only dream of working with. Having already proven his talents on national TV to millions of people, he already has a strong foundation for his career in music.