Biography of Pentatonix

Pentatonix
Pentatonix. Photo by Robin Marchant / Getty Images

Pentatonix ( formed 2011 ) are a five member a capella singing group. They first gained fame when they won the third season of the NBC TV a capella singing competition show The Sing Off. Since then they have become known for their recordings of covers of popular hits and holiday music. Recently, initial ventures into recording original songs have been successful.

Early Years

Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, and Scott Hoying grew up together and were schoolmates at Martin High School in Arlington, Texas.

They competed in a local radio show competition in hopes of meeting cast members of the TV show Glee. They arranged Lady Gaga's "Telephone" for three voices. Despite losing, their performance gained local attention and was also noticed by viewers on YouTube.

After high school graduation, Scott Hoying attended the University of Southern California where he joined an a capella singing group. A friend encouraged him to audition for the show The Sing Off. He convinced Kirstie Maldonado and Mitch Grassi to join him. They added bass singer Avi Kaplan and beatboxer Kevin Olusola and the lineup of Pentatonix was complete. The entire group met in person for the first time the day before auditions for the third season of The Sing Off began.

Scott Hoying suggested the name Pentatonix after the pentatonic scale which includes five notes per octave representing the five members of the group.

Personal Lives

In addition to singing baritone in Pentatonix, Scott Hoying is a songwriter and pianist.

He has been performing live since age eight. He has created a popular YouTube show called Superfruit with fellow Pentatonix member Mitch Grassi.

Group member Mitch Grassi met Scott Hoying at age ten when they were both performing in the school play, an adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

He was still a high school senior when auditioning for The Sing Off. His voice spans six octaves. 

Kirstie Maldonado sang at her mother's wedding reception at age eight which led to the opportunity to take vocal lessons. She formed an a capella trio with Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi while in high school. In May 2016 she became engaged to Jeremy Michael Lewis. In May 2017, Kirstie Maldonado released her first solo single "Break a Little" under the name kirstin.

Avi Kaplan grew up in Visalia, California. He grew up loving folk music. In 2017 he began a solo folk music project under the name Avriel and the Sequoias. The first song "Fields and Pier" was released in April 2017, and a debut EP is scheduled for release in June.

Kevin Olusola is a beatboxer who also plays the cello. He has developed the art of celloboxing, doing both simultaneously. He graduated from Yale University in 2011 and has performed at a number of classical music festivals.

The Sing Off

Pentatonix were one of sixteen groups chosen to compete in the third season of The Sing Off. Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men, and Sara Bareilles served as judges. In the finale of the competition, Pentatonix performed David Guetta's "Without You" and the 98 Degrees song "Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)" with the host, former 98 Degrees member Nick Lachey, joining them.

Pentatonix defeated the groups Urban Method and Dartmouth Aires in the finale.

Albums

  • 2014 - PTX Vols. 1 & 2 - This is the official first studio album by Pentatonix. It includes the songs from their first two non-holiday EPs plus three tracks that were released as singles. Ben Bram, who convinced Scott Hoying to pursue auditioning for The Sing Off, served as producer. The first Pentatonix EP reached #14 on the US album chart. The second climbed to #10.
  • 2014 - PTX - This second full-length studio album was released across Europe. It adds seven new recordings to the songs included on the first two non-holiday EPs.
  • 2014 - That's Christmas To Me - The holiday collection That's Christmas To Me is the first album-length Pentatonix collection released worldwide. It is made up almost entirely of previously unreleased music. The song "That's Christmas To Me" is the only original song. The rest are all traditional holiday music. The album sold more than one million copies by the end of 2014 and peaked at #2 on the overall album chart. The group's recording of "Mary, Did You Know?" was released as an official single and peaked at #26 on the Billboard Hot 100. 
  • 2015 - Pentatonix - This is the group's first non-holiday studio album released worldwide. It is also the first collection by the group of almost entirely original songs. Pentatonix debuted at the top of the album chart. It earned a gold certification for sales. The song "Can't Sleep Love" was released as an official single and reached the top 40 across mainstream pop, adult pop, and adult contemporary radio.
  • 2016 - A Pentatonix Christmas - The group's second holiday album included two original songs. It debuted on the album chart at #3 and then later went all the way to #1. By January 2017, the album had sold nearly a million copies. Pentatonix covered Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" for the album. They released it as an official single, and it reached #23 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Impact

 Pentatonix have single-handedly brought a capella music to a level of commercial success never seen before. They have earned three Grammy Awards. The honors include Best Arrangement, Instrumental, or A Capella in both 2015 and 2016. They also won Best County Duo or Group Performance in 2017 for their cover of "Jolene" with Dolly Parton.

Like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood on American Idol, Pentatonix have proven that TV competition shows can uncover enduring stars. Pentatonix have also leveraged popularity on YouTube to generate a dedicated army of fans. They are ranked as one of the top 15 most-subscribed channels on the video service.

A new Pentatonix EP released in April 2017 found the group stretching in new directions by performing older pop songs and country music. In May 2017 Avi Kaplan announced that he would be leaving the group after their upcoming tour. His departure is not due to any artistic disagreements. He cites difficulties keeping up with the demands of the stress of touring.