The Filharmonic’s rise to fame may have started during last year’s season of NBC’s Sing-Off. But that doesn’t mean that new fans are already too late to the a cappella party. For fans, both old and new, here’s a helpful guide on getting to know the boys of The Filharmonic.
Jules Cruz, 22 years old, sings Vocal Bass. He, together with Joe and Niko, went to school together with Avi Kaplan of Pentatonix —the group that won the previous season of Sing-Off. Avi pitched the idea of forming a Pinoy boy band to Jules, and encouraged them to audition for the show’s fourth season. Jules last attended Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, and is mostly responsible for getting the group together.
Boyband persona: “I’m supposed to be the leader. I like to think that I have at least a couple of good ideas now and then. I just have the most free time, so I do the things that everyone else is too busy to do. (Laughs).”
Favorite experience so far: “Going on tour with the group. It’s like everything you’ve imagined. We’ve always grown up with all these dreams about touring, and seeing musicians do all that stuff. And it was just unbelievable.”
Parents from: Manila
Trace Gaynor, 22 years old, is a fresh graduate from the University of Southern California (USC). Trace, a Tenor 3, was already with an a cappella group in USC, when Jules and Avi came around to recruit him. One time, after a performance with his USC group, Trace received an email, saying that they were looking for Filipino a cappella singers in LA to solidify their audition bid for an NBC show. “There’s probably about six Filipino a cappella singers in Los Angeles, and they found all of us,” Trace recalls.
Boyband persona: “I was Baby Face Trace, I was the youngest looking one.”
Favorite experience so far: “Singing [our] first song on Sing-Off. We sang Treasure [by Bruno Mars.] We’ve been working on that song for a long time, singing it in the practice room over and over again. But finally hearing people applaud and go crazy on the first time we performed it, seeing Shawn Stockman and Ben Folds applaud what we had been working on for such a long time was truly gratifying.”
Parents from: Bacarra, Ilocos Norte
VJ Rosales, 27 years old, sings Tenor 1 and 2. He currently works at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music, owned by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Boyband persona: “On the Sing-Off, they called me the Heartthrob, the Filipino Adam Levine, I think it’s because Jules said I had really nice hair. So I don’t know, it’s something about the hair.”
Favorite experience so far: “Singing with Linkin Park. That was cool, that was dope. [It was for] Music For Relief. That was really cool. Once that happened, I was like, ‘Noah, this is real.’”
Parents from: Bataan & Cavite
Barry Fortgang, 21 years old, sings Tenor 1 and 2. He is currently studying at Amador College Conservatory of the Arts for Musical Theater. He calls his work with the group as the “background actor.”
Boyband persona: “My persona is the Funny Guy. I try to say a lot of puns. Sometimes they come out funny, sometimes they don’t. It’s probably funnier when they don’t.”
Favorite experience so far: “Porbably my favorite experience would be signing I’m Alright with Home Free [another group on Sing-Off]. It was one of the most fun performances I’ve been a part of ever. And the audience was really there with us the whole time. And when we were finished, they applauded for quite a while and it was really overwhelming. It saved us from a performance we weren’t too proud of, right beforehand. And Home Free is pretty awesome, so it’s good to collaborate with them.”
Parents from: Southern Leyte
Joe Caigoy, 25 years old, sings Tenor 1, 2, 3, and Baritone. Joe went to Michigan State University, and was one of the first people Jules recruited. He was actually in Michigan when they called about forming the group, and flew into LA on the day right before the Sing-Off auditions.
Boyband persona: “I’m the Teddy Bear of the group. So you can hug me if you want.”
Favorite experience so far: “I get really excited for a lot of our firsts. I was really excited about the tour bus. I was like, ‘we’re gonna be driving everywhere, but it’s also a house.’ It was the place where we were gonna live. It had TV, Wi-Fi, beds. So, we were like, ‘this is a cool bus, it’s not a normal bus.’ (Laughs) The first time we all saw the bus, everyone was really excited. I thought that was funny. Caught on video too.”
Parents from: Iloilo & Manila
Niko Del Rey
Niko Del Rey, 23 years old, is the Beatboxer of the group (or a Dignified Noisemaker, in his own words). Niko graduated from the University of California Riverside, and was the second person contacted by Jules. “Jules got a text from Avi, then asked me if I wanted to do it with them. I was like, ‘Dude, I have no plans for the weekend. Let’s go for it.’”
Boyband persona: “My role in the group is Bad Boy, so don’t hug me.
Favorite experience so far: “We threw a premiere party for the show. And when I saw us on TV, that’s when it became real. We could have done Sing-Off, and if it never aired, we wouldn’t be here. It’s so crazy. When I saw us on TV, my heart was racing, and everything was going slow at the same time.”
Parents from: Manila & Cavite
By Mico Letargo/AJPress