Tag Archives: Pitch Perfect

Mark Erikson

October 8, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Don’t bother trying to contact Mark Erikson on a Monday night.

From now until, well—forever—he’s booked.

On Monday nights, you’ll find Erikson and more than 100 other Nebraska men singing their hearts out at a Presbyterian church in Fremont. They travel in from all over. Erikson drives from Papillion, an 80-mile round trip. Other members make the trek from South Sioux City, Beatrice, and Columbus. Erikson’s work life may take him to another state, but he’ll fly in just for practice, then back. He moves mountains to make sure he’s in his spot on the riser.

“Just a solid fact of life,” he explains.

There’s always a quorum for rehearsal of the Pathfinder Chorus.

“Every Monday at practice, we put all of life’s challenges aside. It’s like a three-hour break in the week. I’m with my buddies. And we’re singing really well,” says Erikson. “I guess it’s kind of a guy thing.”

That “guy thing” is an award-winning, nationally-recognized barbershop chorus. Erikson’s modesty masks the uniqueness of this ensemble. Widely diverse, both in age and professions, the 43-year-old group first qualified to perform at the Barbershop Harmony Society’s International Competition in 2010. They’ve continued to qualify and place every year since, a rare feat for a group made up of non-music professionals.

Barbershop harmonizing and a cappella singing in general have enjoyed resurgence in popularity in recent years, thanks to movies like Pitch Perfect and Jimmy Fallon’s “Ragtime Gals” skits.

“It really has made a difference,” says Erikson. “It’s bringing barbershop to the forefront of a new generation, introducing a music style that can fit them too. They don’t have to stop singing after high school. They can keep singing their whole lives.”

The youngest member of Pathfinder Chorus is 13, the oldest, 85, with all ages in between represented. Professions range from student to dairy farmer to military veteran. There are even a couple of pilots on stage. One flies B-52s, the other flies commercial jets. All have one thing in common: a love for music, harmony, and fellowship.

Erikson discovered his passion for barbershop singing while he was in the military, almost by accident. He was stationed at Norfolk Navy Base. An elderly lady who sat near him in church kept urging him to join the choir. So he did. Later, he downloaded a four-part men’s arrangement of “The Irish Blessing,” encouraged friends to sing with him, and never looked back. That was 11 years ago.

At 63, Erikson now serves as district president. He really wants to leave the chorus—and his community—better than he found it. He also umpires baseball. And many of the Pathfinder concerts are fundraisers. In 2014, they donated over $10,000 to the Salvation Army and Goodfellows charities.

“Mark has been crucial to the success of the group,” says retiring music director Pete “P.D.” Stibor. “Mark has the passion.”

The passion and the practice pay off—and not just at competition. On a sunny Saturday this summer, the Pathfinders performed at Burke High School. Despite beautiful weather, the auditorium was full of fans and groupies eager to spend the next 90 minutes enjoying perfect harmony. It was delivered with only voices as instruments, exploring great pop tunes, ballads, and the Beatles, complete with choreography—even “jazz hands.”

“I want to do this as long as I can,” says Erikson. “Then have the good sense to step down when the time is right. We give ourselves goose bumps on the risers. We look at each other and say…We just did that…It’s such a personal thing. Such an emotional thing to be able to share that with your friends.”

MarkErikson

Adam DeVine

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Avalon Management

In Workaholics, the Comedy Central sitcom hit about three roommates/co-workers at a California telemarketing firm, actor Adam DeVine plays an immature, self-absorbed, funny 20-something without any direction. In real life, the former Omahan and Millard South grad, now living in L.A., seems much more motivated and mature than his character, though he’s definitely still after the laughs. Humor has gotten him through some tough times, as well as helped him with “the ladies.”

Just before entering middle school in 1995, DeVine was hit by a cement truck at Harrison and 144th streets, suffering severe injuries. “[Recovery] was tough…But I found out that if I was funny, girls would push me in my wheelchair to my next class. BOSS MOVES,” he jokes.

Later, while attending high school at MSHS (“Go Patriots!”), DeVine struggled with rejection in sports. “I wasn’t crazy-athletic. I tried out for the basketball team every year [and didn’t make it.] By senior year, the coach told me not to bother. I found out early girls weren’t gonna like me for my athletic prowess, so I had to be funny,” he says.

So DeVine threw himself into school activities like drama and student council, which allowed him to express his humorous side. As his performance and comedy skills grew, so did his ambitions. His drama teacher, Robin Baker, was instrumental in convincing DeVine’s parents to let him follow his dream to move to California to pursue an entertainment career. “She didn’t blink an eye and told my mom that it was a great idea and that she thought I had the chops to make it,” he remembers. “And she’s always encouraged me to write my own stuff and create my own content. Big ups, Mrs. Baker!”

 “I found out early girls weren’t gonna like me for my athletic prowess, so I had to be funny.”

One of DeVine’s big breaks was a national TV commercial for Taco Bell. “I came back to Omaha while it was airing, and I thought I was a superstar,” he says, laughing. More recently, he landed a small supporting role in the box-office hit Pitch Perfect, which garnered him a new league of female fans. (DeVine has to be happy about that.)

Landing Workaholics, however, which has been picked up for two more seasons, has definitely been his biggest role to date. And DeVine feels very lucky for it.

“The creative freedom I have on Workaholics is amazing,” he says. “I want to keep writing my own stuff, and I’ve been told it’s really hard to have this kind of freedom.”

DeVine, who comes back to Nebraska regularly to see friends and family (and occasionally catch a Husker game and grab a Runza, he says), is currently at work on a stand-up comedy/sketch hybrid show called House Party, also for Comedy Central. He and fellow Workaholics actors have written a movie as well, for which comedic actor Seth Rogen has signed on as a producer. “I couldn’t be more psyched. Seth is a great guy to learn from because he’s about my age, and he’s been through it all.”

When asked if there’s any downside to a booming career and fame, he answers, “Finding time to have a life and not working all the time…It’s good to stop, kiss my girlfriend, and call my mom every once in a while.

“Oh, and fake friends…Ya know, the people who would never be friends with me in a million years are suddenly like ‘Bro! What are you doing tonight?’” to which he typically responds, “Nothing with you, dude…I won’t fit in with your crew…I don’t have a fedora or a bedazzled shirt.”

Per usual, DeVine goes for the laugh.