Michael Brookens, a 2006 Marion High School graduate, will be front and center for his hometown fans when he and the six other members of the a capella band Six Appeal (in the background) perform Friday evening during Chinga?wassa Days
Joining Michael Brookens on stage as Six Appeal are Eric Taylor, Jordan Roll, Andrew Bettenhaus-en, Kevin Brewer, Jonathan Swift and Ray Noble.
This group may lack the national acclaim that headliners Foghat and the Bellamy Brothers do. But when Six Appeal steps onto the main stage in Marion?s Central Park Friday evening as an opening act for Foghat, the a capella vocal band from Minne?sota will have a strong local following.
Michael Brookens, a 2006 graduate of Marion High School, is one of the founding members of the group.
?It?s always fun to come home to the community you grew up in,? Brookens said. ?Of course, I grew up with Chingawassa Days, so I know how much fun it can be. I really enjoyed it growing up and I always wanted to sort of come home?and my parents so far have never seen a Six Appeal event yet.?
Don?t be too hard on the parents. Six Appeal is less than three years old. It started in late fall 2006 when Brookens and two fellow students at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., fell into it almost by chance.
?I was involved in the school?s vocal jazz ensemble,? Brookens said. ?I met a couple of guys just kind of singing in the hallway after one of our rehearsals. We all knew the same tune and different parts and we ended up doing it for a talent show.?
The song was ?Where In the World Is Carmen San Diego?? With the help of a fourth classmate they recruited, the quartet generated same raves from the classmates.
?It ended up being a lot of fun and we ended up talking, ?Hey, what if we just start doing this??? Brookens said.
The two guys he hooked up with after the rehearsal session were Eric Taylor and Jordan Roll. The two of them recruited three fellow students?Andrew Bettenhaussen, Kevin Brewer and Jonathan Swift?to form the original six-member group.
?We started singing as a group the second semester of my freshman year,? Brookens said. ?Eventually, our sophomore year, we decided we wanted a wider sound, so we recruited a low bass.?
Ray Noble, a classmate from the Twin Cities, made it a seven-member group. So, how does that work with a group called Six Appeal?
?We originally were six, but then we added a seventh person and people thought we were just dumb,? Brookens said with chuckle. ?We do have our math skills intact. We just kept the name. ?Seven Appeal? doesn?t really have any ring to it.
?We?ve kind of made it into a joke now?that one of us doesn?t have appeal, and it?s up to the audience to decide who it is.?
As the size of the group has expanded, so has its appeal.
Earlier this past school year, they won a collegiate ?battle of the a cappella bands? at Concor?dia, beating out groups from large schools such as the Univer?sity of Minnesota and the Uni?ver?sity of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Brookens was named the best music arranger during the competition.
The group has toured around Minnesota and North Dakota and has sung in a variety of venues, from campus shows and festivals to fundraisers, weddings and even a funeral.
?It?s been kind of a wild ride,? Brookens said.
The group recently mixed and edited a four-song CD that it plans to bring along to sell at Chingawassa Days for $5.
Brookens described the style of songs they sing as ?as wide as possible.?
?We do reggae, rock, old rock; we do some jazz and swing,? he said. ?A lot of it is very popular-music oriented. High school and college kids would know a lot of the songs we?re singing.?
The group arranges all of its songs and has composed a couple of their own.
Brookens said the group works hard to perfect its a capella sound, but are not necessarily driven to reach a certain level of success in the field.
?First and foremost we all agree that the No. 1 thing is having a good time,? Brookens said. ?This group is not about anything except being with your friends and having a good time singing.
?It?s not all been fun and games?there?s been a lot of work,? he added. ?But even most of the work we?ve put in has been nothing but truly enjoyable.?
Though the group has no designated ?in charge? guy, they get along harmoniously.
?We?re all classically trained musicians and have a good musical ear for how things should pan out,? Brookens said. ?If one of us arranges a song, we all offer suggestions how to make the song sound better. It?s really a collaborative effort all around.?
With all seven group members being full-time students, time doesn?t allow for a lot of extra-curricular performances during the academic year. But the future could hold possibilities for full-time performing if that?s the direction they would choose to pursue.
?We have so much interest in the group, and it?s really starting to taken off this year,? Brookens said. ?But at the same time we all have our majors, and we all have our specific direction that we?ve kind of planned.
?I don?t know. This has been really fun?especially in the last eight months it has really taken off. We have a pretty busy summer ahead of us, traveling all over the place.?
This weekend it will be Marion, Kan. It was an easy decision for Brookens, but he said his fellow performers were a little daunted by the thought of the 12-hour drive from Minne?sota
?I told them it would be a good time,? Brookens said.
In addition to the on-stage performance Friday evening, Brookens said the group plans to offer a singing clinic for high school-age student at 10 a.m. Saturday at Marion High School.
The group may also show up in a couple of other local venues if arrangements can be worked out, he added.