Howard Students Go From 'The Sing-Off' To Success | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : Tell Me More

Howard Students Go From 'The Sing-Off' To Success

Play associated audio

Traces of Blue isn't quite a household name just yet, but if you're familiar with NBC's The Sing-Off, you might remember them by their old name, Afro-Blue, the a cappella jazz group hailing from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

They recently took a break from working on their debut EP to stop by NPR's D.C. studios for a special performance.

"What attracts me and probably the rest of the group to jazz is how amazing and beautiful an art form it is," says vocalist Danielle Withers, in an interview with Tell Me More host Michel Martin. "There are so many amazing musicians and singers that we all look up to that perform this beautiful art of music, and to have an opportunity to be a part of that history in any way is definitely something that I was definitely really excited to be a part of."

Interview Highlights

On juggling music and school

"I just try to remember my priorities, try to remember what's important. It's such a great opportunity to be able to do so many things. And I guess having in the back of your mind that not everyone has that kind of opportunity kind of drives you to strive to make it work," says John Kennibrew, a member of the group. "Like, I'm in school — I have to get good grades. That's, like, non-negotiable. But I also want to be in this amazing group, so OK. I have this kind of time, I have this kind of money, all those things; you find out how to use your resources."

On combining jazz with contemporary pop

"All of us really are part of this generation, which means we don't listen to just jazz," says Kennibrew. "We're influenced by just about every other kind of music that you can think of. And a lot of the elements that are in those [types of] music that makes those genres so accessible, so attractive to people, they often find their way into what we do anyway. So that's probably what I love most about this group. We're able to offer jazz to you on a plate with a whole lot of sides that you really like. So you're like, 'OK, I'll try this main course because I know I'm gonna love the mashed potatoes.' "

On not winning The Sing-Off

"We basically didn't think we'd make it as far as we did on the show," says Withers. "I mean, some of us have watched The Sing-Off in the past. We know it's a pop show. You go on the show and you're singing these popular songs from the radio. And we were a jazz ensemble form Howard University. Everything is very — we're using our minds, everything is very calculated, and there's nothing really poppy about what we come from. And so we were really excited to have made it onto the show at all."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Look, Mom, I Finally Made It To Broadway!

NPR's Michel Martin will sit down with a panel of award-winning playwrights to ask about diversity in theater. Follow here or join us on Twitter on Friday at 7 p.m. ET, using #NPRMichel.
NPR

Sweet: Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme Pump Up Pledge On Palm Oil

Two major doughnut chains have bowed to consumer pressure to better police their palm oil purchases. Environmentalists say it's a win for consumers, trees and animals.
WAMU 88.5

Virginia Legislators Kill Medicaid Expansion Effort

The Republican majority killed a compromise effort on a 64 to 33 vote. That means no action will be taken to expand Virginia's Medicaid program.
NPR

Look, Mom, I Finally Made It To Broadway!

NPR's Michel Martin will sit down with a panel of award-winning playwrights to ask about diversity in theater. Follow here or join us on Twitter on Friday at 7 p.m. ET, using #NPRMichel.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.