Last month, Brent Child was part of an energized crowd that gathered in downtown Spokane to enjoy the unique song stylings of Vocal Point.
Over two decades ago, the native of Quincy, WA. was on stage himself as one of nine featured vocalists in the early days of an ensemble that would become a national sensation.
While most know Vocal Point as the elite a capella group from Brigham Young University that earned fame in 2011 on NBC’s “Sing Off,” and has been honored with prestigious awards like Best Group Recording Artist of the Year from the Faith Centered Music Association, Brent came on near the project’s humble beginnings. After graduating from Ricks College in 1994, he enrolled at BYU and shortly thereafter heard rumblings about something called “Vocal Point.”
“While at Ricks College I was involved in a men’s a cappella group,” Brent said. “We called ourselves ‘Nine Guys in Ties.’ Shortly after arriving at BYU, I saw a poster advertising auditions for a nine-man a cappella group. There was a familiarity there, so I decided to audition.”
Brent was one of the few to make the cut. Founded in 1991 by BYU students Dave Boyce and Bob Ahlander, Vocal Point spent its first three years as a school club with a fan base that grew every year. In 1994, Vocal Point became an official performing arts group through the BYU School of Music.
“Soon after being selected to be in the group I quickly realized how popular Vocal Point was at BYU,” Brent recalls.
The path to Vocal Point was the latest stop in a musical journey for Brent that began when he learned to play the piano, trumpet and drums as kid growing up in Quincy’s small farming community. He was in a band during his high school years and sang a capella hymns while on a two-year LDS mission to British Columbia.
“Music has always been a part of my life,” he said. “My mother liked to sing happy tunes around the house while we were doing chores. While I have not entered a professional career in music, it continues to be a part of my life.”
Despite the fun and camaraderie, the popularity of Vocal Point in the early years didn’t necessarily translate into a glamorous experience for Brent and his colleagues. The high-profile days of performing at the Lincoln Center in New York City and being featured on CNN were still years away.
“During those early years the budget was very small,” Brent said. “Usually we had to find a way to pack around our own sound equipment. We were fortunate to travel to Boise each year. We also visited Payson, Utah each year. Most of our gigs were local.”
Occasionally, Vocal Point sang before dignitaries like BYU President Rex Lee and Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, only the venue that day was not an ornate concert hall, but the yard at President Lee’s home in Provo. Brent looks back on the humble outdoor concert in the shadows of the Wasatch Front as his “most memorable.”
Brent was a member of Vocal Point for two years before he left BYU in 1996 to start dental school. Now a successful dentist in the Spokane area, he looks back on his time with the group as special.
“I felt it a privilege to partake in the spirit of Vocal Point,” said Brent, who lives in the North Spokane Stake with his family. “We were like brothers. There was an energy of fun that we felt. When appropriate, there was always a number about our Savior Jesus Christ. This was the Vocal Point spirit I remember and still lives on.”
The familiar energy was on display Feb. 20 at the INB Performing Arts Center in Spokane. Brent brought his wife, Beth, and their four children to the concert that served as a fundraiser for the local branch of the BYU Management Society. Funds raised went toward scholarships for returned missionaries and local LDS high school students. As expected, the performance was a resounding success.
“Vocal Point has influenced many people over the years,” Brent said. “I truly enjoyed their recent show here in Spokane. The best part for me was watching my wife and children experience the fun and feel the messages that Vocal Point carries to their audience.”
While some aspects of the group have changed in the last two decades, others remain the same, Brent says.
“During my time in the group, we were somewhat primitive in our methods,” he said. “Vocal Point has advanced in the way they deliver their music and choreography. They are more polished and sharp than ever before but the same attitudes and messages still ring out in their harmonies.”
Earlier this month, Brent had a chance to reconnect with some of his old musical mates as well as others who have been part of Vocal Point since its inception. A 25-year reunion was held in Provo March 4-5, highlighted by four sold-out concerts at the Covey Center. Over half of the 120 alumni showed up for the event, chronicled by the Deseret News in this article.
“At the performances, the current group shared the stage with all 65 alumni in two different powerful numbers along with their traditional nine-man show,” Brent said. “The whole reunion celebration was an incredible experience. There is a true brotherhood among all Vocal Point alumni and current members, as well as a special connection with their families and friends. We have always wanted to reach out to our fans to energize and inspire them with our music and fun.”