U's Got Talent

By Marina Gomberg

Kevin Blickfeldt dreamt of performing on international stages when he was an undergraduate in the University of Utah School of Music studying vocal performance. And this year, that dream is becoming a very big reality.

Blickfeldt and three of his opera-singing friends, David Castillo, Arnold Geis and DeMar Neal, formed an operatic boy band (or #manband as they refer to themselves) called VOXto compete on NBC’s hit show “America’s Got Talent.”

Together, the four make a classically trained vocal quartet specializing in opera, musical theater and crossover music. Whether singing the soaring arias of opera’s greatest composers, performing the heart-wrenching melodies of musical theatre’s greatest shows or putting their signature twist on the chart-topping hits of today, VOX has something for everyone.

These baritone hunks blew the audience and judges away when they performed a specially arranged four-part version of Puccini’s aria “Nessum Dorma” from the opera “Turandot.”  They received an emphatic standing ovation along with unanimous support from judges Heidi Klum, Howard Stern, Howie Mandel and Mel B to move forward in the competition.

This week, the next phase of the contest, the Judge’s Cut Round, kicks off and will decide what performers move on to the semifinals and finals hosted at the iconic Radio City Music Hall this summer.

“My time at the University of Utah was pivotal in preparing me for this experience,” Blickfeldt said. “Julie Wright Costa, my voice teacher at the time, really believed in me. She prepared me with a sound technical foundation and helped me work through some mental issues that were getting in the way of my singing. In my Opera Workshop Class, Robert Breault taught me how to audition with confidence, how to comport myself on stage and—most importantly—to sing with heart. He always stressed that what we do is a privilege and that each opportunity is a gift. These lessons from the U have always stayed with me.”

Blickfeldt graduated from the University of Utah in 2007 with a double-major in music and political science, went on to get his Master of Music from Florida State University and his Doctor of Musical Arts from University of Southern California.

The University of Utah, its College of Fine Arts and School of Music wish Blickfeldt and VOX the best during this wild ride.

Wish VOX luck (or to break a leg) by visiting them on social media @voxsings FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube and Snapchat with #voxsings



Barihunks form "boy band" and advance on America's Got Talent

Two barihunks who have been featured on our site are now part of Vox, the newest "boy band" to hit the airwaves. The twist is that they're all classically-trained opera singers. Baritones David Castillo,  Kevin Blickfeldt and DeMar Neal, along with tenor Arnold Geis. Castillo and Blickeldt are the Barihunks almuni. They are competing on NBC's “America’s Got Talent” and advanced past the audition round with a rousing rendition of Puccini's Nessun Dorma. The winner of the competition gets a $1 million prize. 

In the five years since graduation, Castillo has performed Los Angeles Opera, New Orleans Opera, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Green Mountain Opera Festival, Aspen Opera Theatre, Le Salon de Musiques, The Industry, USC Thornton Opera, and other major opera companies and orchestras. This season he's performing in two world premieres: one with The Industry in HOPSCOTCH and another in a work by Jeffrey Parola. He makes his European debut performing Winterreise with Francois Chouchan at the Mairie du Troisieme Arrondissement in Paris an next year performs Anthony Hope in Sweeney Todd with Fresno Grand Opera and Townsend Opera directed by John De Los Santos. 

Kevin Blickfeldt is on the faculty of the 88 Keys Music Academy and performs in opera, musical theatre, oratorio, recital,  and concert works. Recent performance credits include El General in La Curandera, Maximilian in Candide with Opera Pasadena, and The Prodigal Son with LA Opera’s Britten 100/LA festival.  In 2011, Kevin won the Citadelle Aard at the 6th annual Alltech Voice Competition in Kentucky. For three seasons, Blickfeldt was an artist in residence at the Ohio Light Opera. Many of the productions he performed in were made into cast recordings on the Albany label, where he can be heard as a soloist. Kevin earned his doctorate degree from the University of Southern California. 

DeMar Austin Neal IV is a graduate of Florida State University, the Boston Conservatory, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Neal has appeared as a soloist with symphonies and in festivals throughout North Carolina and abroad, including both the Raleigh and North Carolina symphonies and in the Tiber Sinfonia Festival in Monterchi, Italy. He was also seen as a featured soloist at the 2010 Robert Schumann Bicentennial Festival at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC, as well as at their 2012 Debussy Sesquicentennial Festival.



Statesville grad moves on in 'America’s Got Talent'

By Preston Spencer

Before the performance began, Howard Stern was shaking his head in doubt.

Needless to say, that didn't last. 

To the surprise of the judges, opera singing group Vox amazed them and the audience during Tuesday night’s episode of NBC’s "America’s Got Talent" show. Statesville native DeMar Neal is one of four members of Vox, which is Latin for voice.

By the end of the quartet’s rendition of “Nessun dorma,” an Italian opera song meaning “None shall sleep,” Howie Mandel, one of the reality talent show’s four judges, was standing and, behind him, another 1,200 people were on their feet cheering.

“I would hope at home that they felt the power that we felt in this room,” Mandel said to the group.

All four judges gave positive reviews, moving Vox onto the next round of the show. Neal called it one of the “top three most exciting moments I’ve had in my life.”

“It was sort of overwhelming,” said Neal, 33, who graduated from Statesville High School in 2000. “It was really surreal.”

The episode that aired Tuesday was actually filmed in late March. Currently, the four singers who make up Vox – Kevin Blickfeldt, Arnold Geis and David Castillo are all based in Los Angeles, with Neal in Raleigh, where he is a professor at Meredith College – are waiting on a next-steps email from the producers of the show.

“They don’t actually tell us much about what’s going to happen until they want us to know,” Neal said.

The show’s contestants will next be whittled down, and then starting in August the episodes will be aired live. Neal said it would be amazing to continue to move on and expressed a hope that his group could help bring opera back into mainstream popularity.

“Through Vox and through 'America’s Got Talent,' we can take what we love to do and share it with the world and show everybody that this music is for everybody,” Neal said.

The ability to sing that Neal showed on national television is hardly the start of his performance career.

After graduating from SHS, Neal was a member of the popular Clef Hangers a cappella group at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree in voice performance and has sung with the North Carolina Opera and several other opera groups. In addition to teaching at Meredith, he is also an instructor at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh.

Before high school, Neal took four years of voice lessons from Dan Pardue, a longtime Mitchell Community College music instructor.

Neal’s parents, Dr. DeMar and Linda Neal, live in Mooresville, and Linda said they had never really watched "America’s Got Talent" until Tuesday.

“We were really proud of him,” she said.

Neal said that all the members of Vox just got together as a group about a month before auditioning for the show in March. But after six minutes on a national stage, already, he said, “so many things are happening for us individually and as a group.” And if they actually won the show, “it would give us international fame and glory and an incomparable platform to do what we love,” Neal said.

Neal is the second Iredell County native to make it through a television round of "America's Got Talent." In 2012, Ulysses Long progressed to the live shows.



Vox earned universal praise from the judges of the show Tuesday night.

Howard Stern

“You had the element of surprise. I wasn’t expecting you to do opera. And that’s always a great moment when guys who look like they’re the furthest thing from opera come out and sing opera, we get really moved by that. But when the four of you come together, wow! Boy, do you have a sound! And that’s when you won me over.”

Howie Mandel

“I would hope at home that they felt the power that we felt in this room. ... I think people will come to think of you as the classiest boy band there is.”

Melanie Brown (Mel B)

“It sounded magical. You all individually have great voices,” said singer Mel B, who is perhaps better known as Scary Spice of the Spice Girls. “Perfect song choice. (It) was a home run in my eyes.”

Heidi Klum

“I’m a fan of opera and I’m a fan of classical music and I thought that you did a great job.”



To see Vox’s performance on "America’s Got Talent," visit

You can also follow the band on its Facebook page, VOX Sings.



Opera Quartet Delivers Showstopping Performance On America's Got Talent 10

By Nick Roman

Opera quartet Vox delivered an absolute showstopper of a performance on America’s Got Talent 10!

The group has been singing separately for years, and they’ve been friends for just as long. But they’ve only been singing as a group for about a month. They don’t consider themselves a boy band, although they’ve tried to adopt a certain look that pegs them as one. But make no mistake, these are grown men, no matter how loudly they play New Kids On the Block over their introduction. Onstage, they all met in college, but admit they started Vox (which is Latin for “voice”) specifically for AGT.

Once onstage, they perform the iconic “Nessum Dorma,” and the results are beyond anything we might have expected. 

After the performance, Howie expresses his hope that the audience at home felt the power they felt in this room. He thinks America will come to think of Vox as “the classiest boy band there is.” Mel B says they all have great voices individually, and they’re even better together. She thought it was a homerun, and Heidi agrees, saying they did a great job. Howard didn’t expect them to sing opera, but states they won him over with their performance and their excellent song choice. All four judges say yes.


And watch the rest of tonight’s auditions by checking out our live blog and recap with videos!




Vox America’s Got Talent Audition Video: Watch Opera Boy Band Amaze Judges!

By Shari Weiss

A group named Vox took “boy band” to a whole new level on Tuesday’s “America’s Got Talent.” Check out the video below!

The guys, who met in college “at least a few” years ago, hit the stage with lighthearted attitudes. Their playful nature, combined with the admission that they’ve only been singing together for LESS THAN A MONTH, had the judges skeptical. And then they opened their mouths, and out came out the most beautiful opera song.

Howie Mandel stood up before they even finished, and went on to say, “I would hope at home that they felt the power that we felt in this room….I think people will come to think of you as the classiest boy band there is.”

Howard Stern told Vox, “You had the element of surprise. I wasn’t expecting you to do opera. But when the four of you come together, wow! Boy, do you have a sound! That’s how you won me over.” As an opera and classical music fan, Heidi Klum was also quite impressed.

And Mel B, an award-winning singer, said the contestants” sounded magical.” The Spice Girl added, “You all individually have great voices. Perfect song choice. Was a homerun in my eyes.”

The act actually called to mind Forte, the opera group whose very first performance EVER was on “America’s Got Talent” in 2013. The foursome ended up finishing in fourth place, asGossip Cop reported at the time. Could Vox, though, go all the way? Watch below, and tell us what you think!