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Sixteen a cappella groups will try to win "The Sing-Off," NBC's music competition show. One Vocal Point will try to represent Brigham Young University and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"Absolutely," said McKay Crockett, a Vocal Point tenor. "This may be the first time that many people know what a Mormon young man looks like. We want to be ourselves and portray the church in a very positive way."
Interacting with the members of the other 15 groups has been "a great opportunity to exchange beliefs between not only religions but with people who just want to know who we are," Crockett said. "And what Mormons do and how Mormons act. And they realize we're a lot like they are."
After airing four episodes in 2009 and five in 2010, "The Sing-Off" returns with an 11-episode season this fall. Nick Lachey is the host; the judges are Sara Bareilles, Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman.
With the longer season, the show has expanded from 10 to 16 groups, said executive producer Joel Gallen. That will allow the singers to showcase more genres of music, from rock to country to hip-hop.
Vocal Point has been an institution at BYU for 20 years. The current lineup Crockett, Michael Christensen, Keith Evens, Jake Hunsaker, Ben Murphy, Tanner Nilsson, Robert Seely, Tyler Sterling, Ross Welch were chosen after submitting an audition tape.
"The Sing-Off" taped episodes over the summer, and producers hope the news about who's eliminated in those early installments doesn't leak out. "We obviously have a nondisclosure type thing, and I think everybody's in the spirit of the show," Gallen said. "But we have to do the show around this time of year to maximize the best a cappella groups available because many of them are students."
Members of Vocal Point fly back to Provo once a week to meet with professors and keep up with school work, then fly back to Los Angeles.
"You're balancing school [and] rehearsals," Crockett said. "And there's just a ton of stuff that you have to fit in to just a little bit of time."
The biggest surprise for the group has been "how time consuming it is," he said. "You don't think that preparing a song or two a week really would take that long. But it does."
It's a competition, but not a cut-throat competition. Crockett said the groups are rooting for each other.
And this isn't "American Idol" or "The X Factor." The "Sing-Off" judges aren't trying to be the next Simon Cowell.
"We try to be honest and fair, but we try to be kind as well," Bareilles said. "I think that we're doing a disservice to the groups if we can't be honest."
And, while the members of Vocal Point want to win, they're also looking to have fun while they entertain.
"Sometimes I think there's a void of music that just straight-up makes you happy," Crockett said. "In Vocal Point, that's something we take pretty seriously. Our goal when we decided to do 'The Sing-Off' was to share our joy. And a lot of that joy comes from our faith and what we believe. And so being able to kind of mix those things in a very non-blunt way has been a very rewarding experience."
P "The Sing-Off" returns Monday, Sept. 19, from 8-10 p.m. on NBC/Ch. 5. Sixteen a cappella groups will compete; one will be eliminated each week. The winners will receive a Sony Music recording contract and $200,000 in cash.