HeraldMailMedia.com | by Alicia Notarianni – JC Fisher grew up on a farm in Texas listening to George Strait, Toby Keith and Clint Black. He knew a lot about building things, hauling hay, using combines, feeding horses and milking cows.
“You name it, we did it. I hauled a lot of hay every summer. I grew up working hard, and I didn’t start singing until I was in college,” Fisher said.
Today, Fisher, 42, is one of the internationally known Texas Tenors, a three-time Emmy Award-winning trio that rose to fame competing on the TV show “America’s Got Talent.” The group will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 7, with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown. Singing with Fisher will be tenors Marcus Collins and John Hagen.
The road that led Fisher from riding in a pickup truck singing along to country songs to performing operatic pieces with symphony orchestras was a unique one, he said during a telephone interview from his Kansas City, Kan., home. He believes that the unexpected combination of country and classical has been the key to the group’s success. He remembers the response the group received at its “America’s Got Talent” audition.
“I think it’s the fact that we have this element of surprise,” Fisher said. “We came out, we had our cowboy hats, our bolos, we looked totally country. We sang some country, kinda nodded, then went into a classical aria.”
Fisher sang some in church growing up in Houston, and he sang the national anthem publicly during his senior year in high school. While he was a student at Missouri State University, he started singing karaoke. One night, Fisher was in the top two vying for $250 when his competitor told him he should be singing in the college choir. In order to get a choir scholarship, there was a requirement to take voice lessons. It was his voice teacher, Rosemary Owens, who introduced Fisher to opera.
“I told her I listened to country, ’80s rock. She said, ‘Here. Listen to this,’ and handed me a CD,” Fisher said. “It was Three Tenors — Domingo, Carreras, Pavarotti. She said, ‘Listen to the beauty, the power.’ At first I was like, ‘What is this?’ I had the stereotypes of opera in my head. Then I started singing along, trying to imitate them, and I realized I could kind of do it.”
Owens used an analogy to which Fisher could relate to encourage him in his vocal training. He worked out at the time and was noticeably fit, he said.
“She said, ‘I can tell you work out. You are in good shape. You can lift more than other people, do more things than other people. That is what opera is. That is the way opera works. You work, your vocal muscles get stronger, you can sing higher and louder, and it’s all healthy for you.’ I totally related to that,” Fisher said.
Within a few months, he was hitting high notes and singing arias. Fisher’s connection with classical music gave him a sense of direction. He transferred to Wichita State University and graduated with a degree in music. After graduation, he earned a living through work in the construction and music industries. Fisher and tenor Collins worked for a time on a cruise ship as singers, then they met Hagen through one of Fisher’s voice teachers.
“At the time, there were a lot of tenor groups, but we had kind of an outlandish idea,” Fisher said. “You never hear of country classical. But a lot of people love both of those, whether they know it or not.”
Houston was a great place from which to launch such an act, Fisher said.
“So in Houston, there are a lot of cowboys, but there are a lot of classical music lovers. It’s one of the biggest cities in the country, with a lot of sophistication,” he said.
It was a gig the three men performed at a pageant run by Fisher’s wife in 2009 that caught the attention of “America’s Got Talent.” The trio sang a couple of songs and sent a video clip to the show. Producers from the show called the next day inviting the men to audition.
“We didn’t even have a name for the group,” Fisher said. “We didn’t really have clothes, so we stopped by a Goodwill looking for a suit jacket or a tux vest. Next thing we know, we are auditioning in front of Piers Morgan and David Hasselhoff. It was pretty crazy.”
Fisher said the trio made it to the finale of the show, then “hit the road running.” In addition to earning Emmys for a self-produced special, the group filmed a PBS special and is working on another. The tenors are at work on two new albums – one gospel and the other that has a lot of potential for radio play, he said.
With the fruits of his success, he chooses to support people who work hard to move forward in life. He started the Fisher Foundation to provide scholarships for students, and the Texas Tenors promote organizations including Homes for Our Troops and ChildFund. He is thankful to have the resources to help others.
“I always wanted to be able to do something like this, but honestly, I didn’t have the money to do it with. Now, things are clicking and I have that opportunity to help people do things,” Fisher said. “I never could understand groups that make money and don’t give back to good things. That just doesn’t make sense to me because that is really what it’s all about.”
If you go …
WHAT: The Texas Tenors
with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, May 7
WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown
COST: Adults, $25 to $65; children, $15 to 55
CONTACT: Go to www.mdtheatre.org or call 301-790-2000