McHenry grad directs Curie High School singing group on 'America's Got Talent'

Michael Gibson is an unabashed “music geek.”

When he was just a few years old, his parents bought him his first keyboard, even though friends and family thought he was too young to learn. He would play and make up his own songs, and that’s when his parents began to notice his aptitude for music.

He participated in musicals, band and choir all the way through high school, immersing himself in anything and everything that had a beat.

After graduating from McHenry East High School, Gibson attended VanderCook College of Music in Chicago to pursue his passion for music and teaching.

Gibson decided to attend VanderCook after his high school band director recommended he apply. He said he was very inspired by his high school teachers and hoped to be able to do that for his own students someday.

Immediately after graduation, Gibson got a job at Curie Metro High School in 2005 on the southwest side of Chicago teaching piano.

Three years later, Gibson started working with the high school’s musical theater program. After the program was curtailed and eventually eliminated because of funding cuts, the group of students who participated still wanted to find a way to sing and perform.

And so the Musicality Vocal Ensemble began.

A group of students attended rehearsal every day after school, and they performed a few small concerts throughout the year. Gibson said they opened up the group for auditions the next year, and got a lot of really passionate kids who were interested in joining.

“I knew right away they were so dedicated and passionate about it, so it was worth continuing it for years to come,” he said.

Every year the group got bigger and more people knew who they were. Musicality started recording YouTube videos and published them online.

One afternoon during rehearsal, Gibson got a call from someone from “America’s Got Talent” who saw one of their YouTube clips. He recommend Musicality audition for the show online and the rest, Gibson said, was history.

Several months later, Musicality made it to the big stage.

The group performed its cover of One Direction’s “Night Changes,” last month, and they were sent through to the next round of competition. All four judges gave the group a “yes” vote. The show airs at 7 p.m. Tuesdays on NBC, and the winner of the competition nets $1 million.

Gibson said the group changed the song at the last minute, as they were originally supposed to sing Sia’s “Elastic Heart.” He said the vocal coaches recommended the switch to them and they made the change the day before their performance.

“We didn’t really let it bother us, we just tried to push and make it the best we could,” he said.

Gibson said this experience and the public attention Musicality has received has been humbling and exciting, and it’s given them a chance to reflect on where they’ve come from and where they are now.

“We’re representing a part of society that people overlook a lot,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from. If you work hard and do what you love, you can make a difference and make an impact.”

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