The Untold Truth Of Pentatonix's Kevin Olusola

Pentatonix is made up of five members: Mitch Grassi, Kirstin Maldonado, Scott Hoying, Matt Sallee, and Kevin Olusola. Born and raised in Owensboro, Kentucky, Olusola is the proud son of a Nigerian physicist and a Grenadian nurse (via Yamaha) and has a strong sense of faith and belief in a higher power (via Beliefnet). Olusola's path toward fame and stardom with Pentatonix is pretty unique: While living in China during his sophomore year of college, he made a video in which he played the cello while beatboxing. One thing led to another, the video went viral, and Olusola got a phone call to join the rest of the group for Season 3 of "The Sing-Off."

Through it all, from his sudden rise to fame to the current level of success he and his bandmates have achieved, Olusola has maintained a strong sense of who he is and what he is on this planet to do. He also hopes that his music inspires other people, especially young people from Kentucky, to believe that they can accomplish their dreams if they put in the effort to do so.

Here's a look at the beatboxer who helped put Pentatonix on the map — where he's been, where he's going, and why his cello is named Beyoncé. 

Kevin Olusola had a musical childhood in Kentucky

Kevin Olusola grew up in Owensboro, Kentucky, where he was raised by his parents, a Nigerian physicist and a Grenadian nurse (via Yamaha). Olusola is very fond of his hometown, telling local publication Owensboro Living that there's something truly special about the town. He explained that his fondness for the city is partly due to the people he knows and grew up with, but also that "there's just something about the Southern core values when it comes to, for example, Christianity, when it comes to the kindness of people, it's something that I really love about this city and I feel it every single time I come."

He also believes in encouraging other creative people from Kentucky to aspire to whatever heights they want to. Olusola told Owensboro Living that despite what some might think, there are plenty of resources in Kentucky for students, teens, and young adults who want to pursue a career in the arts. As he put it, if he had one message for young people in Kentucky, it's that "if anyone tells them that you can't make it from Kentucky, then they are dead wrong."

Kevin Olusola performed at Carnegie Hall when he was 18

Carnegie Hall is a legendary music venue that opened in New York City in 1891. These days, the venue has been designated a national landmark (via Carnegie Hall), and performing there is truly an impressive feat. That makes the fact that Kevin Olusola performed there twice — once on the cello and again on the saxophone — as a teenager all the more impressive (via Yamaha).

His performance was also featured on PBS, and the network's website offers a few more details about Olusola's journey. For starters, he decided to try out the saxophone after finding out that former president Bill Clinton plays the instrument. Olusola was also the winner of the David X. Thurmond Director's Award for most talented young artist in Kentucky. Thurmond was the first director of Kentucky's Governor's School for the Arts (per Louisville Ballet), which Olusola attended (via Owensboro Living). 

Kevin Olusola describes his undergraduate years at Yale as life-changing

After graduating from the Kentucky's Governor's School for the Arts, Kevin Olusola applied and was accepted to Yale University. From the way he tells it, his time at the school was truly life-changing. While speaking to the Yale Symphony Orchestra, Olusola said that his Yale experience gave him the ability and opportunity to really dig into the world around him in a multitude of ways.

More than anything, he believes that the experimental energy at Yale allowed him and other students to grow and discover their talents and interests. That experience allowed him to combine two forms of performance that most people might not inherently associate with each other. He explained, "I think that gave me the confidence to try bringing my beatboxing into my cello playing and also trying different forms of playing that I use today."

Interestingly, when Olusola went to Yale he was planning to study medicine, and even entered the school as a pre-med student. As he told Owensboro Living, that had been the plan for most of his life. He said, "I grew up thinking I would be pre-med. I went to college at Yale, I was a pre-med student."

Kevin Olusola would have gone to Berkeley if Pentatonix lost The Sing-Off

Before Kevin Olusola got the call to join Pentatonix on "The Sing-Off," he was planning to continue his education at Berkeley, but then fate stepped in. As he told the Yale Symphony Orchestra, "I was going to go, but in my Spring semester of my Senior year, I had this video that went viral of me playing cello and beatboxing; and when that video went viral, a few opportunities came from it, which was, you know, to try out with my band, Pentatonix."

As fans of Pentatonix know, the rest was history. Olusola and the rest of the group ended up on Season 3 of "The Sing-Off," won the show, and immediately began recording an album. Olusola had to forfeit his admission to Berkeley before he knew if the group would win, so he ended up taking a risk — though it's probably not one that he regrets. 

Faith is very important to Kevin Olusola

While music is clearly a huge part of his life, Kevin Olusola is clear about one very personal thing: His Christian faith is very important to him. He told Beliefnet that his faith goes back to childhood, as both his parents are Christian and that's how they raised him. However, he also says that he had to explore religion on his own to find out what it really means to him, and once he did so, he came to a pretty impressive realization. As he explained, "They raised me in it so I've always known of God but it didn't become real to me until college when I really started digging in on my own and realizing that everything I do, if I'm not focusing on the word of Jesus Christ, it doesn't [amount to anything]."

Olusola also told the publication that his faith inspires him in other, less obvious ways as well. For him, life is about always doing your most to be consistent in effort, performance, and belief.

His cello teacher at Yale had a huge influence on his life

There's another reason why Yale had such a huge impact on Kevin Olusola's life: His cello teacher, Ole Akahoshi, taught him there. Olusola explained to Yale Symphony Orchestra that Akahoshi taught him more about music and life than he ever could have imagined, especially because he was so young at the time. As he put it, having the opportunity to learn from Akahoshi's experiences was profound, "Because as a young kid, you don't have so many experiences in your life, and he could talk about some of his experiences, and I think that helped me grow and go deeper into how I wanted to express myself, so I just love him."

He also shared a story about Akahosi and how the teacher taught him to "sing through any instrument" by having him spend time listening to opera music in the Yale Music Library. Olusola might not be an opera singer, but he still learned through the experience.

Kevin Olusola began beatboxing in college

Kevin Olusola was already playing the cello when he had the idea to combine playing the instrument with the vocal instrument he would become famous for — beatboxing. While in college, Olusola combined playing the cello and beatboxing and ended up with a viral video. He explained to Beliefnet that he had no idea it would become as popular as it did. 

The video really changed everything for Olusola. As he was fresh off winning a senior prize, he likely didn't expect how his life would change — but as he related to Beliefnet, the video caused a domino effect that meant "the next six months were set in stone by going out to tour with [musical duo] Gungor on the David Crowder Band's last tour, and then Pentatonix."

Olusola added that for him, playing the cello and beatboxing are both equally musical and dynamic experiences. He told Beliefnet that one skill feeds the other, and that being in Pentatonix has meant he's more exposed to mainstream music than he might have been otherwise, which only strengthens his skills.

Kevin Olusola believes God brought Pentatonix together

Kevin Olusola's strong faith and belief in God is so huge that he even believes a higher power brought the members of Pentatonix together in the first place. He told Beliefnet that he knew Pentatonix was special from the beginning, because, "I believe in destiny, I believe in God, and I believe this was a God given thing that happened, it just clicked so well."

Olusola has plenty of evidence to support his claim, adding that before the five members of Pentatonix came together, none of them had serious experience with a cappella music, and they all didn't meet until the day before they tried out for "The Sing-Off." He added that even though the members of the group think differently about music, something brings them together to make Pentatonix click just right. Olusola said, "I'm so thankful because I really believe it was the Lord that put together this entity and who we are."

Kevin Olusola lived in China while he was in college

Kevin Olusola's time at Yale University was impactful in another major way: He lived in China during his sophomore year, and the experience had a profound impact on him. Olusola was studying Mandarin while living in China when he first had the idea to combine cello and beatboxing, and he says that his language teacher was actually the first person who made the suggestion. Olusola told PopCrush, "I lived in China for my sophomore year of college, and in the summer of [that] year, I was in a class where ... I would always talk about beatboxing and ... the cello. My Chinese teacher asked, 'Have you ever thought about combining the cello and beatboxing together?'"

While the idea seemed nearly unfathomable to Olusola at first, he said that the more he thought about it, the more he realized he didn't think anyone else had performed such a combination before. He performed the combination in China first, telling Beliefnet that it was an instant hit. He explained, "We actually had a talent show and I tried it out there just a little bit and all the Chinese kids were like 'WHOA! What are you doing??'"

Kevin Olusola's cello is named Beyoncé

As a cello player, it's probably not surprising that Kevin Olusola is very, very fond of his instrument — so much so that it even has a special name. As PopCrush noted, a comment on one of Olusola's video asks, "Doesn't Kevin's cello sound like his soul?" to which another commenter replied, "That's because it's literally Beyoncé." The publication asked Olusola what he thought of the exchange between commenters, and he seemed frankly delighted.

After laughing, Olusola explained that the second commenter was likely referring to the fact that he calls his cello by one very powerful name: Beyoncé. He adds that he recently made a new cello purchase, and thought maybe he should continue the theme. Olusola continued, eventually landing on the perfect name when he said, "That's so funny. And I just got a new cello, an electric [one], and I just need one more ... Blue Ivy."

Kevin Olusola hopes fans are inspired by the music he makes

Like the rest of the members of Pentatonix, Kevin Olusola is deeply connected to and invested in his fans. He told PopCrush that if there's one thing he hopes the people who listen to his music feel, it's inspired. Olusola adds that this is especially true for fans who are also instrumentalists, like he is, adding that it can be easy for instrumentalists to feel that they aren't as important as a singer in a group or band. 

He also says that he hopes his fans feel inspired to do exactly what they want to do, like he has. Olusola added, "Nothing is impossible. You can really make your dreams come to life. At the end of the day, I really want people to feel good and take away that music can be captivating and thrilling." Additionally, Olusola hopes that fans and people who love his music understand one thing: Music is "a viable part of the human experience."

In 2018, Kevin Olusola's hometown honored him in a big way

In 2018, Kevin Olusola returned to his home town of Owensboro, Kentucky, for a very major and meaningful reason: The town wanted to honor him with a star on its Walk of Fame. Olusola told Owensboro Living that he was very moved by the award, explaining that he couldn't believe he earned it before he even turned 30 years old. Olusola added, "I am so honored and shocked that they chose me. I mean, you look at the other people that are on the walk of fame, and they have done such incredible things with their lives, as well."

The honor meant a lot to Olusola because he was able to accept it in front of many of the people that he grew up and went to school with. Ultimately for him, Owensboro had an immeasurable impact on his life. As he put it, the town is part of the reason he's been able to achieve the success he has. Olusola said, "This is the place that gave me the values that I have, so that I could have this type of success in the industry." 

Kevin Olusola learned how to build a home studio in 2020

In 2020, Kevin Olusola and the rest of Pentatonix found themselves spending an awful lot of time at home (along with millions of people around the world). Since the group still had an international music career to be cognizant of, they decided to use that time to be ultra productive. Kevin Olusola explained to Billboard that he and the rest of the band were moved to do something that could bring a little light and joy to the lives of their fans around the world, which is how their 2020 album, "At Home," was born.

Olusola added that their label, RCA, gave each band member a budget to build their own studio at home ... which meant they were all on YouTube a lot trying to learn how to run programs and software in their studios to get the job done. In the end, the band was able to get back to recording the music that made them famous in the first place: cover songs.