Adventists Form Contest-winning
A Cappella Group
NOTA wins recording contract, national fame on NBC-TV’s The Sing-Off
BY DEAN WATERMAN, pastor, Redeeming Grace Fellowship and Community Fellowship Seventh-day Adventist churches, writing from Chesapeake, Virginia
USIC AND outreach combined in December 2009 to propel the music of six graduates of Antillean Adventist University. They won a televised competition against seven other a cappella groups on NBC’s television program The Sing-Off.
For Johnny Figueroa, a neuroscientist at the Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine at Loma Linda University, singing a cappella had always been a part of life from his days attending Western Adventist Academy in Puerto Rico. Figueroa began singing with an a cappella group, SoundStage, when he moved to California in 2007. SoundStage won several competitions, but Figueroa’s faith made him feel out of place with the music sung by the group. He left the group as he hoped God would provide another opportunity that would allow him to keep his faith and share it with others.
In March 2009 Figueroa heard through the Internet that a televised a cappella competition was in the planning stages. Though not part of an active group, Figueroa and his wife, Merari, thought this could be an opportunity to get his singing friends from his past together and form a group. Figueroa made calls to Juan Diaz, a physical education teacher; Ludwig Henderson, a personal trainer; Jose Rodriguez and Edgar Rios, pharmaceutical sales representatives; and David Pinto, a sound engineer, and after hours of discussion and cajoling, formed NOTA.
A NOTA-BLE ACHIEVEMENT: The members of NOTA are Adventists and graduates of Antillean Adventist University in Puerto Rico. From left: Juan Diaz, David Pinto, Johnny Figueroa, Jose Rodriguez, Ludwig Henderson, and Edgar Rios. [Photo: NOTA]
NOTA auditioned in Los Angeles in September and received a call from the casting agency the next month saying they made the Sing-Off competition. What made the competition challenging was the seven groups NOTA was up against: four of them were college groups that had been together longer than NOTA and had more experience performing together. All eight groups would be competing on prime-time television for a $100,000 cash prize and a recording contract with Epic Records/Sony Music.
On December 14 NOTA opened the Sing-Off competition before a studio audience and three judges—Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman, and Nicole Scherzinger, each of whom have wide experience in the music business. From the first song, the judges noted NOTA’s presence and sound. After each group had performed, the three judges voted one group off the show. NOTA and the remaining groups proceeded to the next night’s competition. On the third night of competition people around the world got to vote for their favorite group. NOTA, along with two other groups, made it to the December 21 finale, during which NOTA was revealed as the winner of the $100,000 cash prize and the recording contract.
While two groups from Christian colleges made it clear where they stood in their faith, NOTA took the approach of speaking through their actions, Figueroa said. They used the competition to share their faith in subtle ways. The final day of competition, before the live show, Sing-Off staff members gathered to share their thoughts from the auditions to the final show. Staff members commented that they had never worked with a group as humble, one that led by example. Prior to each taping for the competition the members of NOTA invited staff members and the members of competing groups to spend time in prayer. This simple act made an impact on all those involved in the Sing-Off competition, Figueroa said.
After sharing their faith during the competition, NOTA intends to do the same as they record their new CD and give live performances. In reflecting on what God has opened up for NOTA, Figueroa said, “I welcome the opportunity to share the good news, and pray daily that God will use me and NOTA to bring people closer to Him.”