You may be able to tell which contestant on “The Sing Off” graduated from UMD just by looking at the girth of the facial hair. That’s right, it’s the bearded one, Rob Lundquist. "I will always remember that first episode where we performed 'Cruise' by Florida Georgia Line. At one point during the song I made eye contact with one of my musical idols, Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men, and he was bobbing his head along with the music and smiling. I'm surprised I was even able to keep singing through that. And then he made the comment that I can 'never lose that beard,' which has changed my life forever, making me the 'bearded one' in Home Free. There is even a twitter profile out there called Rob's Beard @BeardFree. If they only knew that the reason I started growing a beard in the first place was to survive Duluth's ridiculously cold winters."
Rob and his a capella group Home Free recently won “The Sing Off,” a competition series on NBC. They took home $100,000 and a recording contract."Performing on The Sing Off has been for sure one of the most amazing experiences in my life," says Rob.
Amazing, and challenging. Rob says that performing on "The Sing Off" requires a marathoner's endurance, but he was ready for the task because of the training that he received at UMD, "Before coming to college I had really only started singing for a little over a year. I had almost no technique and my vocal instructor, Rachel Inselman, pretty much taught me to sing. Her instruction has been invaluable to me and the techniques she taught me definitely helped while filming 'The Sing Off.' We sang anywhere from eight to 12 hours a day, everyday, and there's just no way I would have been able to get through it without that knowledge".
Rachel remembers Rob as a natural with quite a varied repertoire, "He was equally talented in singing opera, musical theatre, and jazz, and that is quite rare."
Another voice professor, Tina Thielen Gaffey, also challenged Rob as a vocalist, "She had us learning some wicked hard charts in the vocal jazz ensemble, Lake Effect, and was constantly giving us new music to learn. Having to learn difficult arrangements quickly for sure helped me on 'The Sing Off'. She also is just a great professor and friend that encouraged me to make music my career and stick with it."
Rob joined Home Free after graduating from UMD in 2007 with a B.A. in music. He moved to Minneapolis where he works at the Guthrie Theater as a bartender, although those bartending gigs look to be few and far between. Home Free's tour schedule is jam-packed, with many of the performances sold out.
Check out their rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” here:
Story by Lori C. Melton