Vocal students to learn from, perform with, Boston professionals 1

The Boston-based a cappella group Ball in the House will hold in-person workshops with local students. Montario “Monty” Hill, left, Jon Ryan, Kevin Guest, Wallace Thomas and Dave Guisti.

Students at T.F. Riggs High School will get a chance to learn from professionals as a Boston a cappella group makes their way to the Pierre area to educate and inspire future musicians on Sept. 21.

The five-member vocal a cappella group, Ball in the House from Boston, described their music as a mix of rhythm and blues, soul and pop. The group is known for its high-energy shows and getting audience members to join them by singing and dancing along to the music.

“Margaret Ellefson came to me about them doing a workshop with us and us singing a piece with them,” Riggs Vocal Director Rodd Bauck said. “We will be singing ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’ by Justin Timberlake with them. I don’t know what all is going to take place when they work with us. It is my Chamber choir that will be singing with them.”

Ellefson is the president of the Pierre Concert Series.

“We are excited they can go into the schools and work with the students because music is something you can enjoy your entire life,” Nancy Thomsen, Pierre Concert Series treasurer, said. “We want this to be a community thing. We want to encourage students to be involved with professional musicians and provide those opportunities whenever possible.”

Ball in the House member Montario “Monty” Hill found while the voice is an adaptable instrument in itself, he and his fellow group members also enjoy playing traditional instruments, including the piano, trumpet and recorder. But Hill said he prefers the sound of the human voice.

Now, he hopes to inspire future generations of vocalists.

“For most of us, we grew up in a choral program at school,” Hill said. “We hope that we inspire students to continue in the arts in some capacity. It comes full circle when they get the opportunity to see us on stage or watch our videos. When we are on tour, we get to reach a different part of the country that may not get the opportunities of being in a big city like Boston.”

Hill found there are some challenges with a cappella. He said the most challenging part is getting past the initial rehearsal stages because, at times, it can be discouraging.

“You’re learning a new song that you have heard on the radio a million times and trying to make it sound like that with just vocals,” he said. “If it doesn’t sound alright in the beginning, which nine times out of 10 it doesn’t, you want to drop it and move on to something else. That’s where practice, determination and responsibility come into play.”

Despite challenges in using just vocals, Hill said he could count on his fellow members supporting him every step of the way when he’s singing lead.

Hill also found that the best part of it all is interacting with the audience or students, especially when they sing during the call and response sections of shows or when the group sees them making dance moves in the audience. And he said the group is excited to have the students perform with them.

The Sept. 21 event isn’t the group’s first time in Pierre. They were also in Pierre in the fall of 2019 while traveling to Gettysburg. But future shows in South Dakota will cut the group’s visit short this time around.

“We might dabble around town. We have a show in Belle Fourche the next day, so not sure if we will get to do everything,” Hill said. “That just means that we have to come back. We are just very excited to be back on the road doing what we love and providing some much-needed release for people across the country. Whether you want to dance, cry, sing, laugh, or just get out of the house, we hope that we can help you get to your destination.”

After workshopping with students, Ball in the House will perform at Riggs Theater at 7 p.m. that evening. The concert is the first installment of the Pierre Concert Series 2021-2022 program. Tickets are available through Pierre Concert Series membership by phoning 605-224-2301 or at the door.

“Anybody who had a ticket from April 2020 may use those tickets as part of the 2021 season,” Thomsen said. “Don’t worry if you have thrown your tickets away. I will be there with the master list, so no problem.”

The Pierre Concert Series annually brings a four- or five-concert season to the Pierre area community, of musical entertainment ranging from classical and jazz to pop, folk and country. The Series is all-volunteer, with support coming almost exclusively from series memberships and concert sponsorships. Coronavirus pandemic precautions led to the entire fall season’s cancelation.

“Of course, with the pandemic, life for anyone in the arts was full-stop halted with no sure answer to if and when we would be able to return to our livelihood,” Hill said. “It was devastating for us to get the news of cancelations for mostly everything mid-March. Fortunately for us, we applied for every grant that we could. We managed to adapt our show virtually through the aid of a local television station, WCTV. We pretty much did everything that we could to stay productive during those trying times. We are forever grateful that we were able to sustain and continue to strive as we as a global community figure out the next step.”

Del Bartels | 605-224-7301

Reporter Del Bartels, a born and raised South Dakotan and a graduate from Black Hills State University, was the editor of a weekly newspaper for 17 years.

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