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Monday, June 24
The Indiana Daily Student


Straight No Chaser alumni team up with RCA Records

A cappella singers recall past, look to future of group

In September 1996, Daniel Ponce worked with a few other students to assemble a group of guys with one mission in mind: to form a men's singing ensemble that would put the Hoosiers on the a cappella map. \n"I looked around at other universities and saw many a cappella groups," Ponce said. "Then when I came to IU, I noticed that they did not have any a cappella groups, and I wanted to do something about that."\nThe group began with 10 members practicing several times a week and put on its first performance at the 1996 IU Dance Marathon. From the members' point of view, it wasn't their best show, but they said the campus response was overwhelmingly positive.\nSince then, the group has brought in new members and seen old members depart, some of whom have continued to work in the field of music.\nShortly before graduation, the original members got together and decided they wanted to forget their original, sensible plans and try to make it in the world of musical entertainment. So Steve Morgan, Michael Itkoff, Charlie Mechling, Daniel Ponce and Jerome Collins set off to conquer the world of music.\nThe group started in Indianapolis singing a little and trying to figure out what to do to be noticed. The members all said they were not really happy with what they were doing there. \n"Then we had a little good luck," Collins said. He was on a plane and talking to the person next to him, who told him that he knew someone who knew someone who could get them an audition with RCA Records. Collins jumped at the opportunity, though he admits he was a little skeptical. After the audition with RCA Records, the company signed them on in January of this year. \nNow the five original members of Straight No Chaser live in Atlanta where they are working on their first CD with RCA Records. The band's name is TEN to FIVE, which it got from Straight No Chaser, because they were originally a group of 10 and five of them are still together.\nRandy Stine, also one of the original 10, moved to Atlanta upon Ponce's request in October 1999 to help the group with business and marketing and give input on new song possibilities. When they begin touring, Stine will take on the position of tour manager.\n"Unfortunately, it's not all glamour and glitz like most people think," Stine said. "Most of the time is spent writing and recording music for the first album, and although the record label does help out with living expenses, since we can't work full-time, most of us work," Stine said.\nCollins and Itkoff valet-park cars, Ponce teaches violin, voice and piano at the local college and Morgan and Mechling have been waiting tables. Stine does digital-video editing for a post-production company. \nStine describes their living situation in midtown Atlanta as almost like a sit-com. "There are six of us, living in three 2-bedroom apartments, all on the same floor, in the same building," Stine said. "Imagine Joey and Chandler from 'Friends' times three."\nThe CD will include a few a cappella songs, but it will also include songs with instrumentals in the background. "We want to be part of the new wave of men's groups," Collins said. They compare themselves to Boys II Men, but Collins said, "We want to do more than get up there and sing -- we want to pull some stools out and kill you vocally."\nAlthough the members have been out of college for two years now, they continue to hold their experiences at IU close to their hearts. \n"I majored in Straight No Chaser at IU," Ponce said. "It's just amazing how something you begin in college can have such a great effect on your professional career," Ponce said.\nThey all agreed that anyone with a dream of pursuing music can go after it and conquer it but they must be willing to give it their all and be prepared when the time comes. \n"Since everyone told us to follow our dreams and do it now of you'll regret it later, we decided to go for it," Stine said. "Obviously, we hope for this new group to be the next big thing, but even if the album flops and we're never heard from again, we know we tried for ourselves and for everyone who told us to keep singing." \nThe album should be out within the next year, and the group can be contacted at

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