The Early Years (Fall 1996 – Spring 2000)
In the fall of 1996, Jay Criscuolo and Jay Rao arrived as freshman at American University campus, each with a desire to participate in the collegiate legacy of men’s a cappella. Neither were music majors, but both wanted to keep music in their lives. Upon learning that there were no a cappella groups at AU, each Jay independently began a search to find members to start a group. Eventually, they found each other. In their early months of searching, the two Jays found Ben Feingold, Graham Gibson, and two mysterious fellows named Josh and Dan whose last names have been lost in the annals of time. It was not until the spring of 1998 that the group of six, under the name “Tastes Like Chicken”, got its first gig. Performing for a crowd of friends in the Tavern during a talent show, the group graced AU with its first taste of a cappella — and the campus was hooked.
Banking on their success, the group began planning for their bright future on campus. The following fall, Dan transferred and Josh graduated, leaving the members of our group numbering four. With the addition of senior and nice-guy-extraordinaire Jason Gordon, our membership grew to five, and after several months of blood, sweat and tears, the group was ready for the big leagues. On December 14th, 1998, the group performed for the first time as On a Sensual Note. The concert packed The McDonald Recital Hall in the Kreeger Music Building to capacity, with people sitting in the aisles and standing in the rear. In the weeks that followed and on into second semester, the show was run on ATV, AU’s student TV station, allowing those who had heard about the show through word of mouth to get a taste of the kind of escape we tried to offer during the hellish period of final exams.
Riding the tide of congratulations and acclaim, we never thought the bottom could so quickly fall from under our feet, and yet that is precisely what happened. The following spring, Jay Gordon had gotten engaged and was planning a wedding, so his priorities changed and rightly so. Ben and Jay Rao both went abroad; what remained was Jay Criscuolo and Graham Gibson trying to recapture what we all had worked so hard for. Jay C. and Graham held auditions and added a few people, but things never quite gelled as before, and regrettably, there was no spring concert. A sense of uncertainty loomed large in the minds of Jay C. and Graham as the semester drew to a close: would the two returning members, plus Jay C., all of whom were seniors, still have the drive to make this work in their last year of school?
When the fall semester of 1999 began, the results of the seniors’ commitment paid off. They all returned, energized to make On a Sensual Note something even bigger and better than before. The group took in three new members that fall: freshmen Jimmy Luke and Marc Chauvin and sophomore Dave Roberts. We were invited to perform the Star Spangled Banner at Midnight Madness, and did so in front of a packed house at Bender Arena. Our fall concert that year was such a success that it prompted us to do singing Valentines that spring, not to mention tuck-ins for the sororities. After performing two shows back-to-back nights, another first, we capped the year with recording our first album, “Aural Pleasure”, in the McKinley Studios on campus. On a Sensual Note was here to stay, and this was the year we laid the foundation for its future.
The Foundations (Fall 2000 – Spring 2002)
During the fall of 2000, after graduating three irreplaceable voices in Ben and the two Jays, the group once again reloaded with some great talent in Michael Menachem, Steve Field and Jorge Santoscoy. This semester was our first trip to an a cappella competition, held at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore where we proved our mettle amongst other, old and longer established groups. As a result of our new exposure we began to receive invitations to sing with groups across the country. That spring, we lost Jimmy but still put a great show in early May, gave several performances in D.C. and sang with groups at George Washington University and Johns Hopkins.
While only losing Graham to graduation, the group expanded its numbers in the fall of 2001. After exhaustive try outs, OASN welcomed Mikey Aldefer, Micah Jorish, Pete Javiti and Matt Conti into the fold. We also introduced some quick shows called “quickies” on the steps of the Mary Graydon Center that semester, which were always well received and had great turn outs. With eight members, our largest membership up till then, we hosted The Women in Red from North Carolina State and the co-ed group Amazin’ Blue from the University of Michigan. Once again, we capped off the semester with a killer concert in the Kreeger Music Building. Having established its end of the semester concerts as traditions, along with the Quickies, tuck-ins and other fun concerts, the group was ready to enter a groove.
The Present (Fall 2002 – Present)
In the fall of 2000, On a Sensual Note began to find the groove that it has continued into the present. Under the leadership of Dave Roberts, the group began offering its services for sorority tuck-ins, added more gigs, and continued its old traditions. We also became an official AU club and wrote our constitution. In the spring of 2003, On a Sensual Note released their second CD, “Back to the Drawing Board” and almost immediately began plans for recording a new album. Those plans were realized with the production of “New Ties, Old Guys” in the fall of 2006. We have sung with groups from all over the East Cost and performed all across the area. Our concerts have since moved from the Kreeger Music Building to the Kay Spiritual Life Center in order to accommodate the large crowds our shows bring in, and even that venue is consistently filled beyond its legal capacity.
Our newest CD “Spare Change” (2009) is available at all of our concerts. Since its production, the group has changed pretty dramatically. With the coming and going of vocal powerhouses like Vishal Vaidya and arrangement masters like Andrew Munson, the group is in a much better place than it was at its humble beginnings. They blew away crowds at on campus gigs, such as opening for then-Sen. Barack Obama to receive the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s endorsement for President, Relay for Life, Acapalooza, and fundraisers to rebuild Haiti. Success on campus has also given us the privilege to do off campus gigs, including the White House, the Embassy of Singapore, the Cherry Blossom Festival, and for the U.S. Secretary of Labor. The group has taken multiple tours up and down the eastern seaboard, all the while making friends in odd places.
The history of On a Sensual Note is short, but without a doubt there will be many years to come–and who knows, maybe even a new album? Stay tuned, cause OASN is just getting started.