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January 13, 2005

Fresh Freshmen

Verde Valley Online (AZ):

It all began in 1948 when Hal Kratzsch, Don and Ross Barbour and Bob Flanigan created a new vocal sound while they were attending Butler University in Indianapolis, Ind. Ross Barbour and Bob Flanigan are still involved with the group. There have been 22 variations of the group up to this point, but they are still The Four Freshmen and carry on the original cutting-edge sounds.

They became one of the first vocal Quartets to use the High Melody on top of the Chord. Working without written arrangements, they arranged each chord by ear. They spread their voicing over a wider range than other groups at the time. They wanted the feel of a large brass section a la the Stan Kenton Band. Stan heard the group in Dayton, Ohio, and immediately recognized their potential. Because of Stan’s interest, he spoke to Capitol Records, and The Four Freshmen were signed in 1950. Their first single was It’s A Blue World released in 1952. The record set the standard for The Four Freshmen and groups like the Beach Boys, the Lettermen, and singing groups all over the world.

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, they played every major University in the USA and concerts in 40 countries throughout the world. They have over 40 albums, over 70 top selling singles, six Grammy nominations and numerous television appearances. The Four Freshmen have been voted the No. 1 Vocal Group of the Year by Downbeat Magazine two out of the last three years.

Brian Eichenberger sings the lead part while playing bass, guitar and piano. From July 1996 until January 2000, he sang the second part in the harmony with The Four Freshmen. Eichenberger, from Apple Valley, Minn., has now become only the third lead singer in the 50-plus year history of The Four Freshmen. Eichenberger got the call to join the group while studying jazz arranging and performance under Phil Mattson at the School of Music in Creston, Iowa. Creston was in the middle of nowhere, and the 50 music students had nothing to do except play, sing, eat, sleep and breathe music. Eichenberger, whose birthday is May 16, 1976, spends most of his time writing new songs.

Vince Johnson is an accomplished singer; singing second part harmony as well as playing bass, guitar and trombone. He brings a distinguished resume to the group. He received his bachelor of music in 1994 from California State University, Long Beach, and his masters in jazz studies from the University of Southern California in 1999. Johnson has worked as an accompanist, educator and performer, which includes performing throughout the world for Princess Cruise Lines. He knew he wanted to be a musician in junior high school. Johnson’s birthday is Sept. 3, 1970, and he has all of The Four Freshmen albums.

Bob Ferreira began singing the fourth part harmony and playing the drums in 1992. Originally from Seattle, Wash., Ferreira’s introduction to group harmony began when he studied with former Freshmen Kirk March at Edmund Community College in Washington. In August 2001, he officially became the “senior” ranking member of the group. “I’m kind of like the big man on campus; the other guys look up to me,” he said. Ferreira studied classical voice training in his first few years of college, auditioned for The Four Freshmen in ’92 and has been with the group ever since. Ferreira was born July 21, 1970. Curtis Calderon is the “Freshest Freshmen,” having joined the group in 2001. Hailing from San Antonio, Texas, he began his jazz career in earnest playing trumpet at age 11. Curtis joined the renowned John Marshall High Jazz Band, which won many consecutive national competitions, and he earned his stripes by going on the road with Russ Morgan’s big band. Coming home to San Antonio, he was a regular fixture at The Landing Jazz Club, where The Four Freshmen’s Brian Eichenberger discovered him. He recently celebrated his 30th birthday on Jan. 8.

Posted by acapnews at January 13, 2005 12:07 AM