Tonic Sol-fa
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Tonic Sol-fa

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Pop A Capella

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The 11th annual A cappella Festivella filled the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Williamson Auditorium with a mighty roar on Saturday night.
The evening was a delightful surprise. Tonic Sol-fa, a quintet out of the Midwest, was tonic on my ears.

The clear, vibrant harmonies, beautiful voices and tight rhythm made for effortless listening.
This is a group you can sit back and enjoy the ride with.

They showed their versatility with a
lighthearted version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” done in the voices of the Muppets, and a strong gospel song called “The Long
Black Train,” which was powerful and moving. "Oklahoma Wind," an original composition written by Shaun Johnson, the group’s -main soloist, was melodious and well
crafted. A rocking version of Elvis Presley’s “Little Less Conversation” had everyone clapping.

Nine years of singing together have produced an instinctual execution of seamless musical
lines, as well as a great rapport with the audience and a sense of fun. I enjoyed their joking with one another almost as much as listening to those wonderful voices.

There is nothing like a live performance, but I would have bought Tonic Sol-fa’s CD at the
end of the show if there hadn't been such a huge line of people thinking the same thing.
Well done, guys. - Anchorage Daily News


By JERRY GUENTHER - Norfolk Daily News

NORFOLK, Neb. -- Christmas arrived early for a Norfolk boy.

Nathan Boyle, the son of Rick and Mary Boyle of Norfolk, was presented with an electric scooter that looks like a miniature Harley-Davidson motorcycle on Dec. 21.

Nathan, who has leukemia, was the subject of an essay by Nicole Jepsen, a seventh-grader who attends Norfolk Middle School.

Tonic Sol Fa, an a capella men's group that performed in Norfolk recently, held an essay contest in which it invited young people from all 20 cities on its Christmas concert tour to write an essay on why they should be awarded the scooter offered as the contest prize.

Before deciding to enter the contest, Nicole Jepsen, a seventh-grader at Norfolk Middle School, didn't know second-grader Nathan Boyle, who attends Sacred Heart School.

But because Nathan's mother teaches in the Norfolk Public Schools, Nicole was aware of the suffering that Nathan has experienced in dealing with his disease and treatments for it.

That's what prompted her to enter the contest and suggest the scooter be given to Nathan.

"I think he deserves a really cool Christmas present. His mom works at another school here and her heart is just broken into pieces when she sees him in pain," Nicole wrote.
She also mentioned that her school was raising money to help with his medical bills.

Nathan has been forced to miss several days of school this semester because the treatments make him ill.

Shaun Johnson, one of the four members of Tonic Sol Fa, chose Nicole's letter as the winner.

Nathan was excited to try out the scooter.

The Boyles said they were touched not only by Nicole's thoughtfulness, but also by the community support they have received in recent months.

"That was just awesome, Nicole," said Rick Boyle, who presented her with a gift from the Boyle family.

"Lots of people have done lots of things, but this is the noisiest one," said Mary Boyle with a laugh.

Nicole's parents, Bill and Sharie Jepsen, were on hand for the presentation of the scooter. Her father said he did not know that Nicole had entered the contest.

"I am very proud and humbled that my 12-year-old would think like this," he said. "She is just a sweet person." - Press & Dakotan - Yankton Daily


—Elise Soukup
Newsweek, Inc.

What do indie musicians and Tupperware have in common? More than you might think. Desperate to sell CDs without a major label's backing, many independent groups are taking a cue from the container giant by encouraging fans to hold "listening parties," which function a lot like Mom's Tupperware parties, only louder and, presumably, hipper.

The business model should sound familiar: fans gather their friends before an album's release (usually in a dorm or a coffee shop), play an advance copy of the album and encourage their guests to preorder the CD. Managers supply the host with promotional materials as well as order forms or directions on how to preorder from the band's Web site. The hosts not only get an advance look at the album, but for their trouble, "we swag them out," says David Derring, a manager for the Graham Colton Band (as heard on the WB's "Everwood"!). "We give them free CDs, T shirts, free tickets to concerts, that kind of thing. The kids love it."

The bands love it, too. Pre-orders count toward first-week album sales, which lead to bigger numbers and higher chart positions. Even after the release, the parties are used to bring new fans into the fold. "The best promotion a band can ever get is for a fan to talk about them," says Matt Phillips, manager of the San Diego-based band Slightly Stoopid, which is using the parties to promote its fifth album, "Closer to the Sun." "If a hard-core fan will spread the word to their community of friends, that's better than radio or MTV or anything."

Karie Belling, a stay-at-home mom of two and part-time entrepreneur, recently hosted a party in Sartell, Minn., for Tonic Sol-fa, a popular Minneapolis-based a cappella group. "After each song, we'd shut the music off and we'd talk about how everyone felt about the songs," says Belling. "A lot of my friends didn't know the group and they loved it." Thirty of her friends showed up; 15 preordered "Boston to Beijing," which will be released this week. She's just one success story: 120 people in 30 states have signed up to host Sol-fa parties. (The top 50 sellers get a free Bose sound system; the top-selling host gets a live performance from the group.) "My mom did Tupperware parties," says Tonic Sol-fa frontman Shaun Johnson. "She won a lot of prizes, so I know the power of it." - NEWSWEEK Magazine


Tonic Sol-fa is no stranger to the Midwest. The a cappella group formed at St. Johns University in Collegeville more than 10 years ago and has spent most of its career touring incessantly, playing every state fair, community festival, corporate gig or church picnic that wants it.

In the past couple of years, Tonic Sol-fa's loyal following has filled up Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and tuned in to performances on the national morning news shows.

But Tonic Sol-fa might not be sole property of the Midwest for long.

The group's new album, "Boston to Beijing," hits stores Tuesday, and it is being distributed nationally. Plans are in the works for a new Christmas DVD and a PBS special. The new management team behind the group is intent on introducing Tonic Sol-fa
– and a cappella music – to the nation with some inventive marketing campaigns.

That doesn't mean that Tonic fans who-knew-them-when need to worry about being left in the cold.

"From the start, (the label) said, 'We want you guys to stay who you are,'" member Greg Bannwarth said. "They understand it's not broken. They don't want to fix it."

Group members promise they won't be learning any new dance moves or dressing like a boy band or picking up instruments. They'll still be Tonic Sol-fa — just more so.

Take the new album for example.

"The songs are all better than things we've done in the past," Bannwarth said.

The group wrote some of songs on the album, and it chose songs from the catalog of its new label, Vivaton Records! A producer and soundengineer were involved in the recording process, allowing the group to focus on the music.

The album has the same Tonic Sol-fa sound found on previous recordings.
"I don't think there's going to be a huge difference," Jared Dove said. "It'll just be a bigger sound and have a more professional quality."

Marketing strategy

Creating an album to be proud of is one thing. Finding people who want to buy it is another.

Sure, a cappella music has its cult following. But how do you sell a band with no instruments to the mainstream?

You go slow.

"A cappella is not as mainstream," Dove said. "To a lot of the country, it's going to be brand new."

Tonic Sol-fa has always been pretty aware of the business component of making its music, and now there are people working to promote it, taking some pressure off its musicians.

"There is a bit of relief," Dove said. Like many independent bands, they have felt the pressure of creating and marketing.

"Ours is so much trial-and-error, and you waste time on the error," Dove said of trying to deal with the publicity components of the music business.

In addition to working on the normal outlets — television, radio, Web sites, touring — Tonic Sol-fa's management is experimenting with some unusual outlets.

A month before "Boston to Beijing" was released, fans began signing up to host listening parties for the new album. Party hosts received an advance copy of the album, a 10-minute DVD about the band and pre-order forms so party guests could order the album. - St. Cloud Times


By Tanya Manus, Journal copy editor

RAPID CITY - If too much holiday hustle and bustle has you feeling less than merry, Tonic Sol-Fa's revved up brand of a cappella music might be the best medicine to restore bright spirits.

Music lovers packed Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Tuesday night to see this Minnesota band's third performance in Rapid City. Returning fans like me were thrilled to find that Tonic Sol-Fa's winning blend of musical prowess, humor and audience interaction hasn't lost its magic.

The foursome has found a formula for success by jazzing up mostly familiar songs with tight, well-honed harmonies and peppy, decidedly modern beats. By adding bold rhythms to classic songs, Tonic Sol-Fa is making the old-fashioned art of a cappella music cool for new generations.

And this blend of new and old is no doubt what attracts everyone from children to senior citizens to their concerts year after year.

Tuesday's concert was classic Tonic Sol-Fa — a deft, high-energy mix of serious or religious songs and fast-paced, lighthearted numbers. The band opened with a religious song appropriate for Christmas. Then, they launched into a solemn but spirited version of "Adeste Fidelis," during which band member Greg Bannwarth, dressed in red striped tights, frolicked around the giggling audience.

Their ability to surprise, amuse and keep the audience just a little off balance is a big part of Tonic Sol-Fa's charm. Their personable and comical interaction with the audience continued all night — whether singer Shaun Johnson was crooning to a blonde in the audience or the band was leading the crowd in a singalong of "Joy To The World." Tuesday night's performance also got a healthy dose of humor thanks to a certain cheering pharmacist named Doug. His enthusiasm attracted the band's attention but he declined their offer to lead the audience in a conga line.

Tonic Sol-Fa's sense of humor also shines through in their choice of a perpetual special guest, "Plastic Santa," who is so popular that he is now featured on a t-shirt. "Plastic Santa" made an appearance this year while the band introduced a feel-good addition to their Christmas concerts - a silent auction for charity. An autographed "Plastic Santa" was sold to raise money for Rapid City's Salvation Army - and money raised in the auction will be matched by Tonic Sol-Fa.

But mainly, beyond their philanthropy and their ability to entertain a crowd, these guys really are amazing singers.

A singer and drummer friend who accompanied me to the concert was dazzled by skill of the band's bass, Jared Dove, and by Tonic Sol-Fa's ability to master difficult harmonies but make them sound effortless.

Both Tonic Sol-Fa's upbeat tunes, such as the naughty-child anthem "I'm Getting Nothing For Christmas," and their slower paced numbers, including the gentle song about God's mercy, "Grace," show off the group's complex singing skills. But ultimately, proof of their talent came when they put down their microphones and sang "Oklahoma Wind," one of their original compositions. Hearing a band offer its unadorned voices is a rarity in this age of digitally enhanced music. The crowd seemed enthralled by the beauty of Tonic Sol-Fa's voices and the sheer novelty of hearing music performed without the help of technology.

The delightful quartet ended by night by tossing beach balls into the audience, who happily batted the balls around and entertained the band members during an encore.

My only real disappointment with Tuesday's concert was that some newer songs displaced a favorite from past Christmas concerts, Tonic Sol-Fa's version of "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch." Thankfully, it is on their "Carol" CD, so I can listen to it all year long.

For anyone who wasn't able to attend the concert but is wanting a dose of Tonic Sol-Fa, there are still chances to see and hear them. The band taped several songs in New York that are airing on NBC's "Today Show" through December, including an appearance that will be broadcast on Christmas Day. Tonic Sol-Fa also is scheduled to make other television appearances in upcoming months to promote their first nationally released album. - Rapid City Journal


Music group gets contract but doesn't forget the fans who supported them.

By TOM SUK
REGISTER STAFF WRITER

A vocal group that recently signed with a national music label held a thank-you party for about 100 fans at the Olsen-Larsen Galleries in West Des Moines last week.

Tonic Sol-fa held the event to celebrate the quartets' contract with Vivaton, a division of Sony BMG, which is giving the group's new CD "Boston to Beijing" national exposure.

West Des Moines was chosen as one of a half-dozen sites for the CD release parties.

"The guys love coming here to Iowa," said Michelle Massman, the group's publicist. "We will also hold these in major cities like Minneapolis, but the guys like spending time in places where people have supported them. They have built up some loyal fans in the Des Moines area in the over 10 years they have been together. They are also very loyal to their fans that have helped them get where they are today."
The a cappella group has performed holiday shows at Hoyt Sherman Place and entertained at the Iowa State Fair over the years, Massman said. An Iowa stop was also important because one of the group's members, Shaun Johnson, is from the state. Johnson was raised in Algona.

Before the invitation-only party sponsored by radio station KLTI (104.1), an autograph session for the group was held at the Valley Junction Farmers Market. The Tonic Sol-fa singers arrived in a black stretch limousine that cruised down the center of the blocked-off Fifth Street. Group members spent about an hour signing autographs and performing a song for the shoppers before strolling to the gallery.
Sheryl Sexauer of Johnston bought a copy of the new CD and had group members autograph it. "I went to their Christmas show and heard them. They are great. When I heard they would be down here I just had to meet them," she said.

At the CD release party the group chatted with guests, many of whom won tickets to the event in a contest sponsored by the radio station. Tiffany Tauschek, who coordinated events for the radio station, said, "It is nice to see guys from small towns make good. We have been promoting them for two years now, and they are at a real turning point in their careers. We think they are really going to take off now."
One of the contest winners was an ecstatic Annette Hightshoe of Des Moines.

"I'm a big fan," she said. "I have been following them for five or six years. The first I ever saw them is when they performed for my company's Christmas party" at the Iowa Clinic, she said. "I have also seen their Christmas show. When I found out I won tickets I couldn't believe it."

Hightshoe and her husband, Jim, talked with group members and posed for pictures with them.
Then they retired to a back gallery where a sound system and about 25 folding chairs was set up to listen to a miniconcert from the group. The performers harmonized about a half-dozen songs for their guests.

"We have never performed so close to an audience before," group member Gregory Bannwarth said.

"Or so close to art," quipped group member Jared Dove. - Des Moines Register


By Tim Gallagher

Shaun Johnson has a high school teacher to thank for his career. And the Christmas holiday. For it wasn't too long ago that Johnson was more interested in sports than music. In stepped a teacher at Bishop Garrigan High School in Algona, Iowa. Terry Voss boldly suggested Johnson sing one verse of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" at the school's holiday concert.

One verse?

"That's all it took," says Johnson, now part of the foursome that makes up Tonic Sol-Fa, the a cappella group now finding its own voice nationwide."

I would have rather played sports at the time," he recalls. "But Mr. Voss forced me to sing this one verse and that lit the fire. The next day at lunch I had upperclassmen, mostly girls, asking me to sing duets with them for concerts. I thought that maybe this singing thing was OK."

OK? Tonic Sol-Fa, which performs at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in a holiday concert at the Orpheum Theatre, is being featured throughout December on NBC's "Today" show. The group taped one song in its entirety for a Christmas "Today" show; other songs are shown in clips. Tonic Sol-Fa has also inked a national recording contract which will culminate in the release this summer of a CD yet to be named.

Word has it that Michael McDonald, formerly of The Doobie Brothers, may join Tonic Sol- Fa on the album in a version of "Takin' It To The Street."

OK? Sounds like Johnson and Tonic Sol-Fa have arrived.

"It's been an interesting few months," Johnson says.

Tonic Sol-Fa, which visited Sioux City a year ago for the holiday concert, also features Theodore Brown of Minneapolis, MN, Greg Bannwarth of Sioux Falls, S.D., and Jared Dove, a native of Green River, WY.

The recording contract represents a jump nationally, especially considering the group didn't sacrifice its sound to land the deal. "We've had offers for national albums before, but we've always refused because they always want to add instruments to our music," Johnson says. "We want to stay the same, keeping it a cappella."
The group might be the first true a cappella group to land a national deal without adding instrumentation (beyond percussion).

The group also signed with manager Ken Kragen, who represented Kenny Rogers for more than 28 years, worked for other stars such as Lionel Richie and Burt Reynolds; and created "We Are The World."

"We're honored and excited that someone of his stature would take a chance on us," says Johnson.

The summer CD will showcase 12 songs, some being fine tuned now by the group in stops like Sioux City. Otherwise, concert goers will see much of the same holiday fun Tonic Sol-Fa has created in three previous Yuletide tours.

"We brought back a few songs people have requested heavily," Johnson says. "We'll involve the audience in a different way, and we're bringing back Plastic Santa in a big, new way."

Johnson says this time Santa's running for election. He won't divulge the returns, though.

"You've got to come to the show to see if he wins," says Johnson of the Santa bit, a routine started by Bannwarth when he spotted the plastic lawn ornament on the side of a stage at a Wisconsin show four years ago.

As for Johnson's holiday season? He'll spend much of it with the group, traveling and delivering holiday cheer. He'll wind down Christmas Eve by making oyster stew for himself (he's the only bachelor of the group) at home.

Is oyster stew a sign of showbiz stardom?

Nope. It's Johnson family tradition.

"On Christmas Eve, we always had oyster stew at home," he says. "I wasn't home the last two years, so I made it myself. I remember calling my mom and asking her about how much butter I should be adding."

How did the stew turn out? Much like his singing career, which started at Christmas many years ago: Not bad. Not bad at all. - Sioux City Journal


Discography

Twenty one - 2012
Something For The Rest Of Us - 2011
Something Beautiful - 2010
Greatest Time Of Year (CD) - 2010
Greatest Time Of Year (DVD) - 2010
If I Can Dream (DVD) - 2009
Just One Of Those Days - 2009
Christmas (CD) - 2008
On Top of the World - 2007
Christmas (DVD) - 2006
Boston to Beijing - 2005
By Request - 2004
Red Vinyl - 2003
Sugarue - 2002
Style - 2001
Carol - 1997

Photos

Bio

Tonic Sol-fa has established itself not only as the most in-demand vocal group in the Midwest, but also one of the most successful independent acts in America. In addition to substantial album sales of its own independent releases (2,000,000 copies sold), the group has toured extensively throughout the US and abroad, building their financial base with a steady list of festivals and private shows that eventually led to numerous sold-out tours of theaters and small arenas. 

Tonic Sol-fa began at St. John’s University in Central Minnesota and includes lead vocalist Shaun Johnson, tenor and vocal percussionist, Greg Bannwarth, baritone and percussionist/vocal percussionist, Theo Brown, and bass, Jared Dove. Together the group reached national prominence with appearances on NBC’s Today Show and in Newsweek magazine. Along the way, they shared the stage with a number of recognizable performers including Jay Leno, Jeff Foxworthy and Weird Al Yankovic, and were recently inducted in the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame alongside Prince. 

From the group’s onset, the members have overseen and operated the business of Tonic Sol-fa with a only a small team of driven supporters acting as managers, lawyers, and publicists, and increased revenue from a few thousand dollars in their first year to a multi-million dollar limited liability company. The group overcame a number of obstacles, including an unspoken apprehension to a cappella acts by individuals in the music industry and having a name that was anything but catchy (a system of naming the notes of the scale, usually do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, developed to teach singing). Still, the group persevered, recording and manufacturing its own records and selling them to a growing legion of fans via the Internet and social networking sites, in the lobby of the theaters where they performed, and through a growing national distribution. One could say they gained their current consumer popularity the old fashioned way; they earned it. 

At present, Tonic Sol-fa is putting the finishing touches on an album of requested originals, a collaborative recording in a catalog of numerous award-winning DVD and CD projects highlighting four indelible voices. This outstanding blend has resulted in multiple Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards, NACA (National Association of Collegiate Activities) Entertainer of the Year nominations, considerable national press, and has landed their music on the best-selling seasonal DVD at Wal-Mart, The 12 Dogs of Christmas. 

Further Tonic Sol-fa has released three television specials, which have aired over 1800 times in forty-seven states and Canada. The new PBS special will be shown through 2020, continuing to spread Tonic Sol-fa's unique sound to an ever-growing audience. 

Tonic Sol-fa continues to tour, record, and conscientiously run their business in the only way familiar to them – differently.


Band Members