Guided By Voices

Local a cappella group Mosaic is changing live music performance

On the 10-12-hour road trips to his grandmother’s house in Kansas, Josh Huslig and his family would listen to a cappella music nonstop. Those long rides created an impression on Huslig’s young mind and showcased the diversity of the human voice.

Years later, when Huslig decided to form his own a cappella group, Mosaic, he was determined to give the genre a face-lift. “It didn’t have a very mainstream edge to it,” Huslig says. “And that was something that always frustrated me with a cappella music; it has this stereotype of being very corny and square, and so the idea with Mosaic was to change that.”

Working at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., as a stage performer, Huslig was surrounded by talented singers looking to stretch their creative muscles. So he formed Mosaic in 2001, and tried out different members before eventually recruiting theme-park vets Sean Gerrity, Troy Dolendo, John Gibson and Heath Burgett. “I think the five of us wanted to be more creative than the theme parks allowed us to be,” Dolendo says. “It was a great tool for people to get their chops. If you can work in the full costume in the heat and weather of Florida, than you can probably work anywhere.”

Mosaic quickly elevated itself above stereotypical a cappella music, incorporating a live-band sound on an instrument-free stage. Covering popular songs, they mimicked guitars, horns and used vocal percussion to nearly trick the audience into believing they were singing with a backup track. “I like surprising people,” Burgett says. “So many people don’t realize that you can do certain things with your voice. They say, ‘I thought something would be missing if it was all just voices, but it really wasn’t.’”

Mosaic began performing at private corporate events before landing a headlining role for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in 2005. While performing one night, the group was unaware that a maître d’ at the Flamingo was in the audience. He approached the group afterward and promised to play their CD for some of the higher-ups at the resort. The guys in Mosaic had their doubts. They had heard similar affirmations before, leaving them surprised when they received an invitation to come to Vegas for a three-week run to open for Flamingo headliner George Wallace.

Sensing that this could be their big break, the group moved to the Valley in 2006 before they had even been offered a permanent job. Their gamble paid off, as Wallace came onstage after their second performance and offered them a job opening for him for the remainder of the year. “George was such a creative and supportive personality,” Huslig says. “He really allowed us to explore ideas and comedic bits and moments.”

The three-week trial turned into a three-year engagement, and playing for the Vegas crowd was definitely a new experience for Mosaic. “It’s very different from your cruise-ship audience,” Huslig says. “It’s a much more honest crowd. If they don’t like you, you’re going to know it.” With the guys constantly playing for different demographics, they were used to changing their playlist on the fly. “The beauty of having no band that you have to work with and change the parts is you can do an all big-band, jazz sort of set,” Dolendo says. “Then the next day we can change it to match a younger, maybe more urban type of crowd. There’s a lot of flexibility.”

Their success with Wallace has led them to compete on a few reality-show competitions, including NBC’s America’s Got Talent (they made it to the semifinals), MTV’s Top Pop Group (they won) and CBS’s A Cappella Quest on The Early Show.

Now, Mosaic is “the face of Silverton’s entertainment,” holding more performances there than any other act. “Our goal right now is to really establish ourselves in Vegas because we’ve lived here for so long, but we travel so much so it’s hard to do that,” Burgett says.

“The future is very bright,” Huslig says. “We are under way recording a new album that’s going to be unlike anything I personally have ever heard. We want to show the world that mainstream music doesn’t necessarily need instruments.”

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