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Vocal ensemble closes Blinn performing art series

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The six members of the acapella group “m-pact” were halfway through their outdoor show in Jakarata when the power went out.

The stage plunged into the darkness. The mics went dead. The music cut out.

There was understandable confusion for several moments, but then lights began to pop on in the audience. Fans flicked lighters and held up the flashlights on their cell phones. Individual sparks grew into a universal glow and the ensemble began to sing again.

The group performed for 20 to 30 minutes with no stage lights or amplification — truly acapella — and the crowd loved it.

“Something about that was a really special moment that I will remember for a long time,” Jeff Smith said.

Smith is the elder statesman and artistic director of the ensemble. M-pact will bring its unique renditions of popular songs to the O’Donnell Theatre stage at Blinn College Friday night as a part of the school’s performing arts series.

The group was called “one of the best pop-jazz vocal groups in the world” by the San Francisco Chronicle and has performed with legends like Sheryl Crow and Ray Charles over the years. It began with five members in 1995 and after nine years of rising stardom, it added Smith as the sixth singer.

By 2016, the five original members had retired or transitioned to new projects. Smith carried on the legacy by recruiting five new voices and hitting the road again. M-pact continues to tour the world bringing its distinctive style to new audiences.

“That’s one of the things I’ve loved over the years, to travel internationally with the group and see how music truly is an international language,” Smith said.

M-pact will bring not only its music but its outreach program to Blinn College. In addition to being gifted musicians and singers, the members are also instructors. They teach master classes and conduct workshops when they’re not on the road, and they make time to meet with music students when they arrive in a new town.

The sessions allow kids to get to know the artists and discover similarities in their own lives. The performers demonstrate techniques and sometimes help the students with musical compositions of their own.

“The big thing for us is that we were all sitting in those same seats not that long ago,” Smith said. “We were all music students in high school and college and wondering what we would do with our love for music, and we each had a kind of an ‘ah ha’ moment when we were in school. Those moments were the result of seeing an artist who inspired us.”

For Smith, the moment came when he saw an acapella group called Take 6. He realized immediately that he wanted to be a part of a vocal jazz ensemble. He has spent nearly 15 years living his dream and throughout that time he and the other members of the group have provided assistance to younger generations of aspiring musicians.

M-pact will close out the Performing Arts Series at Blinn College for 2018 with a show that begins at 7p.m.

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