Posted by: Colin Britt | August 16, 2013

Fifteen minutes of fame: 3Penny and America’s Got Talent

3Penny Radio City EPIC

2012-2013 certainly has been a busy year! In addition to going through both professional and personal milestones and transitions (including marrying my beautiful wife Tori), I’ve just experienced the most spectacular fifteen minutes of fame I could ever imagine! Because the latest chapter is just winding down, I thought I’d take a moment to write about some of these incredible experiences and opportunities.

To review: in September, my dear friend and colleague Arianne Abela and I got together about 55 of our talented musician friends to record a choral/orchestral cover of THE song of 2012, “Call Me Maybe.” We playfully called ourselves 3Penny Chorus and Orchestra. To our surprise (and delight), the video went viral and has been seen over 2.5 million times online. That led to an appearance on The Today Show, in which most of the original performers from the YouTube video were again featured, performing live from Rockefeller Plaza. It was incredibly exciting, but also deeply meaningful to Arianne and me, because we could share that moment with all of our friends performing with us and with our friends and family watching from home.

And that was the end of the ride – or so we thought. Early this spring, 3Penny was presented with the opportunity to audition for the hit NBC show America’s Got Talent. On one early morning in April, we again piled onto a charter bus and drove to New York, where we auditioned in front of the judges and a packed audience at the Hammerstein Ballroom. We had NO idea what to expect… but I don’t think any of us had the slightest idea just how well the performance would be received – the audience was up on its feet clapping along, and even Howard Stern gave us a standing ovation! Here’s the clip of that performance:

IMG_1236The next thing we knew, we were on a plane to Las Vegas, where we again appeared in front of the judges, who gave us the green light to move right to the quarterfinals at Radio City Music Hall!

Fast-forward to Thursday morning, August 8. We arrived at Radio City with 27 singers and 23 players, instruments in tow. We were brought in for some filming (there’s always filming going on), including interviews and so-called B-roll, which consisted mostly of our group arriving at Radio City, opening instrument cases, discussing logistics, and rehearsing. In the afternoon, we rehearsed with Graham, the music director, who helped us work on balance and made some minor adjustments to the arrangement, including adding a choral part to the introduction.

Saturday was our first time on that incredible stage – talk about goosebumps! They placed us roughly in our positions onstage so they could figure out our set. Sunday night was our big rehearsal – first, we were brought onstage for placement on risers, followed by an instrument-by-instrument sound check. The folks helping us were incredible – so professional and efficient, yet completely relaxed and patient, which must have taken a lot given our large performing forces. They spent a good 45 minutes working with us to get the best balance.

IMG_1503Following the sound check, we then rehearsed our number for another 45 minutes or so for camera blocking, which is when they determine which camera angle to cut to at specific moments in the song. For example, they wanted a shot of the chorus acting disdainful at a particular moment in the song; they also were very happy to do a close-up of my vibraslap solo. Throughout the whole rehearsal, we could see the live edits being projected on two giant screens on stage left and stage right. It was remarkable how consistent they were with each runthrough – the camera operators were ready for each shot well in advance, and I don’t know that I would be able to pick up on even subtle differences between takes had I watched them back to back.

The next time we played together was on Tuesday afternoon for our final dress, complete with wardrobe and makeup. We went onstage one more time, and pretty much ran the act from start to finish before leaving again. And then we were live! The show broadcast on NBC to over nine million viewers. Here is the clip from that performance, following the video introduction we filmed:

The concept of America’s Got Talent is that once an act makes it to the quarterfinals, the judges offer comments but then open it up to America to vote. Overnight, the votes were tallied, and we ended up not advancing to the semifinals. While we would have loved to continue performing in that incredible venue and on national television, we also recognize how talented the other acts were, and how tough our competition was! We’re very thrilled for the four acts that are moving on, and we’re also a little relieved to go back to our “normal” lives.

It’s pretty hard to believe this all really happened, and that it all started one Monday in September by inviting our friends to come sight-read an arrangement of a pop song and “paying” them with pizza and ice cream. This whole CRAZY endeavor was only possible because of their talents and generosity, and because of the incredible support we all received from our friends and family who were cheering us on. I can’t think of a more spectacular and fun way to end the summer (and to say “see you later” to some dear friends who are moving away from the Northeast) than this adventure we all shared. I owe special thanks to Arianne for being the best collaborator I could ask for, and to Tori for helping to keep me sane this summer. And thanks to each and every one of you for following along with us and supporting us – I am so incredibly humbled by the love and support you’ve given. I am so very lucky.



  1. Colin, your attitude is admirable which is why I have no doubt that along with your incredible talent you will continue to shine in everything that you do.

  2. Reblogged this on bandsweetie23.

  3. It just proves that good things happen to good people! You totally deserved it and it was fun living vicariously through your experience. Until next time….on to your next adventure!

  4. Colin,
    Your (and Arianne’s) fifteen minutes have not yet begun. This experience, I am quite certain, was just a tiny prelude to the success for which you both are most certainly destined. What an absolute joy and privilege it has been to sing with you over the past few years and share in the beginning of your professional journey. As you’ve so often noted along this journey, “This is crazy!”. Yet you have persevered amidst the chaos with equanimity and grace that, along with your exceptional talents, are sure to carry you to even greater heights in the years ahead. And your friends in New Haven will be cheering you on every step of the way.

  5. Colin your attitude is wonderful. Your beautiful spirit and talent will shine all through your life. I have had a wonderful time this summer following 3 Penny Chorus and Orchestra this summer on their AGT journey. God Bless.

  6. It’s like they say: good things happen to good people. You completely deserve the recognition you’re getting. It has been fun living vicariously though 3Penny and its AGT journey. There is no doubt that there are great things to come in your future and your friends will be there cheering you on!

    • Sorry for the duplicate message – I thought the first one was lost in cyberspace!

  7. Really looking forward to Colin’s official arrival here at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, where Colin will conduct the University Choir while working on his doctoral degree in Choral Conducting. Congrats Colin on your crazy ride with this great project.

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