Artist Spotlight: the Con Artists

The Con Artists have become a surprisingly common name around campus. While a cappella music may not be topping the charts anytime soon, these 7 vocalists have managed to procure a solid following here at Lawrence. The current members include Mike Axtell, Brad Bohannon, Mark Determan, Kyle Dolan, Brad Grimmer, Brent Funderburk, and Keegan White. We picked the brains of Grimmer, a seasoned member of the group, and relative newcomer Funderburk in order to get more insight into this dynamic group of singers.When and how did you guys begin singing together?

B.G.: My freshman year I roomed with Keegan White, and we both were huge a cappella fans. One day we just started talking about forming a group. We found another pair of roommates who were interested in a cappella (Mark Determan and Scott Sandersfeld). The four of us began the group. We eventually found two more members and had our first concert in the Coffeehouse that spring.

B.F.: I joined the con artists in late fall of last year (my freshman year) as a vocal percussionist. My good buddy Mike Axtell, who had been singing with the group since the beginning of that year, got me interested in joining and that’s how I became a part of the clan.

How has the experience been so far, with regard to performing?

BG: The Con Artists performances have been one of the highlights of my time at Lawrence. It gives me a venue to perform pop music, which I never get to do in the Conservatory. Each year we have a winter concert and a spring concert in Riverview. The average attendance is between 250-300 people, so we’ve become very popular on campus.

BF: The experience for me has been really awesome. The group consists of some very talented and driven individuals that are very focused on quality in many aspects even aside from singing in this group. Going to our concerts each term, it is clear that people enjoy what we do and the support that we get from, not just Connies, but people all over campus in incredible.

Are there any artists or performers who have been particularly inspiring to you or the group as a whole?

BG: Rockapella is a huge influence for us. We’ve done some of their tunes. We also received a number of songs from Straight No Chaser, Indiana University’s premiere a cappella group. Other groups include Tonic Solfa and The Gas House Gang. Personally, the group that got me interested in a cappella years ago is The Brown Derbies from Brown University.

BF: The Con Artists had a real treat last year with the King’s Singers coming to Lawrence and giving a master class and a concert. I think watching a group that is as experienced and professional as the King’s Singers gave the group something to strive for and really inspired us to grind out details in our rehearsals and work only for the best sound we could produce.

What is on the agenda for the Con Artists this coming year?

BG: The Con Artists will be releasing their first studio album this spring. It will be available at their concerts. Our next performance is Nov. 11 at the Charity Rock Concert in Lucinda’s. Our first solo concert of the year will be a Christmas concert in December. The group is very excited for Friday, April 7 when they will be hosting an A Cappella Extravaganza in Stansbury Theatre. Guest artists will include the University of Wisconsin’s premiere a cappella group, Redefined, as well as Gimble A Cappella from the University of Michigan. The other big news this year is that the Con Artists were accepted into the 2006 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. The Con Artists will compete in the Midwest quarterfinal at the University of Illinois on Feb. 11.