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‘A more immersive experience’: Shaun Johnson Big Band Experience records music video at Pioneer Village

WORTHINGTON -- Shaun Johnson, of the well-known Midwest a cappella group Tonic Sol Fa, has been doing something a little different in the music industry.

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Shaun Johnson (right) and trumpeter Jeff Carver (left) shoot part of a music video in the Pioneer Village saloon.

WORTHINGTON - Shaun Johnson, of the well-known Midwest a cappella group Tonic Sol Fa, has been doing something a little different in the music industry. 

Part of his newest performing group, which he calls the Shaun Johnson Big Band Experience, was in Worthington Sunday to shoot a music video at Pioneer Village.
“I wanted to find various interesting places around the country to do some videos,” said Johnson. “I drove past Worthington a while ago and thought, ‘We should do a music video there.’”
The video is of the song “Brotherly” by Citizen Cope and features the band’s trumpet player, Jeff Carver.
“We are just kind of trying to do something to grow interest,” Johnson said of the video. “This band is so new, but we started putting out a new video each week. Our last one had over 30,000 views.”
The Big Band Experience consists of Johnson on vocals, as well as seven other band members.
“We have a trumpet, trombone, alto sax, tenor sax, upright bass, grand piano, drums and sometimes guitar,” he said. “You get to see the talent from a lot of the guys. It’s a more immersive experience. We want the live show to be something worth coming to.”
Johnson says that his band features musicians of varying instruments, backgrounds and talents, yet they all share one common trait.
“When I was going to start this, I found all sorts of people by word of mouth and watching shows, and (the band members) are from all different walks of life, but all from the Midwest,” he said.
“One of the guys teaches at a university, one is a psychologist, so it’s just a lot of different people that are part of the group, but it has all been the same people since the beginning.”
While he remains an active lead vocalist of Tonic Sol Fa, Johnson says that he wanted to try something new and unique.
“I love the road and wanted to continue doing something creative and with music,” he explained. “I own Tonic Sol Fa, and I decided not too long ago to do something for charity. It is what I call the Big Band Experience. It’s not a tribute, it’s just a big band sound with our modern take on it.”
Their modern take is a mix of original and cover songs.
“It’s kind of on the pop side,” he said. “If we do a cover a song, it is an original arrangement. We make it our own.”
The group started in 2013 with a small handful of holiday shows, but it quickly grew from there.
“When we first started, we did Christmas shows, and we would pick a charity in the town and donate the money to them. We wanted to do more, and the calendar started to fill up,” said Johnson.
“We started doing a couple shows in the Midwest, and then one in New York, and then we started touring around the U.S.,” he continued.
The big band sometimes performs with orchestras and symphonies, and Johnson says he has even been able to combine his two musical groups.
“We’ve done a few shows where we put the big band and Tonic Sol Fa together. It’s still an a cappella show, it’s still a big band show, but it just crosses over,” he said.
Greg Bannwarth, Tonic Sol Fa’s tenor, has been involved with the band also.
“Greg had come out on a lot of the show behind the scenes to help me,” said Johnson. “He comes out more on the technical side to just to help out a friend.”
Because the performances are for charity, Johnson says that he doesn’t receive money from his work with the big band.
“It has been a very crazy thing. It’s all different people, all different songs, and all different audiences,” said Johnson. “It’s not a throwback and we’re not trying to be somebody. I like the sound, and we’re just trying to do something unique with it.”
The next area performance of the Shaun Johnson Big Band Experience will be at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, S.D., Dec 1. More information can be found at bigbandexperience.com.

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