TheGrio's 100: Kevin Olusola, 'celloboxer' extraordinaire

theGRIO's 100 - You don't often hear the sounds of a cello and beatboxer at the same time, Kevin Olusola has become a YouTube sensation for his innovative method of blending the two together...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Think about the smooth, mellifluous sounds of the cello. Now think about the thumping, staccato of beatboxing. You don’t often hear the two in the same song, but 23-year-old classically-trained cellist Kevin Olusola has become a YouTube sensation for his innovative method of blending the two together.

Olusola came up with the idea to cellobox during a year-and-a-half stint studying in China. He tried it out in his room and decided to debut it at a talent show, where he received lots of praise.

“It started hitting me that I could do this,” Olusola said.

Perhaps this is just one way Olusola combines his talents. The Yale University graduate double majored in pre-medical and East Asian Studies, and was part of the winning a cappella group, called Pentatonix, on NBC’s The Sing-Off in November. He also plays the saxophone and is a composer.

[MSNBCMSN video=”″ w=”592″ h=”346″ launch_id=”46219527″ id=”msnbc898da6″]

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Olusola said he never thought he would end up with a music career — it was something he just did for fun.

“I love it; it’s something that the Lord gave to me and I want to see what I can do with it,” he said.

Kevin Olusola is making history … as a “celloboxer,” with millions of YouTube hits for his renditions of popular songs by Michael Jackson, Usher, Justin Beiber and other artists. He even opened a show for rapper KRS One, who told him he could take his talents far in the hip hop world.

What’s next for Kevin?

Kevin and the members of Pentatonix won a Sony Music recording contract and $200,000 from their win on “The Sing-Off.” The group is currently working on releasing an EP and later an album. Olusola is also working on learning about music production.

In his own words …

“I want to be what Kenny G. and Carlos Santana were, but for this day and age,” he told theGrio. “I want to sing through my cello, I want show people that a cello can sing just as well as any artist.”

In addition, he says his work known as Julie-O and Riding Solo was definitely one of his favority pieces to perform.

A little-known fact about Kevin Olusola …

Olusola placed second in an international music competition, where renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma called his celloboxing performance “inventive and unexpected.”

Listen to Kevin Olusola celloboxing to Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” here.


Q: What’s next in this chapter of your life?

A: So many exciting things are happening in my life right now, but the most recent event is moving to Los Angeles with my a capella group Pentatonix and starting to record music through our label Sony/Epic Records. We hope to make music that is fun and continues to push the boundaries of a capella into the mainstream.

Q: What’s a fact about you that many people don’t know?

A: I absolutely loooove Shirley Temples. I don’t know why, but ever since I was young, it’s always been my favorite thing to drink!

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

A: “Believe in yourself. Study the greats and become greater.” — Michael Jackson.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?

A: Firstly, my parents are a huge source of inspiration. They are both immigrants — from Nigeria and Grenada — and they came to the U.S. to give their children a better life. They didn’t expect me to go into music, as it is a risky business, and not the typical, financially stable path for an immigrant child. But they believe in me, and so I want to make them extremely proud.

Also, I’m a dreamer. I want to inspire people to do the impossible. I would have never thought to put cello and beatboxing together. But I did, and it was extremely hard work to make it cohesive and musical, but it worked. So I just want to make sure that I’m pushing myself to highest heights so that at the end of the day, I can look back and see that what I did was good.

Q: Who are/were your mentors?

A: My high school orchestra director, William Thomas at Phillips Academy. He’s the one that put the seed into my head that music might even be a serious possibility for me to pursue and achieve. Now that I’ve finally made this my dream, I’ve been finding mentors left and right to help me figure out how to transform my dream into a reality and how to pursue it to fullest.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to achieve their dreams?

A: Someone very successful once told me, “you can have all the success in the world, but be humble.” I keep that in mind. Work extremely hard, but as you continue to rise up the ladder, never forget your roots or where you came from or the people that helped you along the way. Humility takes people the farthest.