1. Headline
  1. Headline

Video: Beatboxing cellist astounds viewers

By
NBC News producer
updated 2/1/2012 10:18:50 AM ET 2012-02-01T15:18:50
Producer’s Notebook

This morning we profiled an extraordinary young musician named Kevin Olusola. He’s incredibly talented. And sweet. But I want to bop him in the nose.

  1. Stories from
    1. Middle School Band Teacher Bridgett Szychulski Charged with Having Sex with Student
    2. Melissa Rivers Breaks Silence for the First Time Since Funeral
    3. America's Next Top Model Finalist Analeigh Tipton Talks Her New Sitcom
    4. Chelsea Clinton's Baby Nursery Décor: It's All About Elephants!
    5. Editor Favorite: The Most Flattering Little Black Pencil Skirt

Why am I so angry? Well, it could be because I’m jealous: I’m an absolute slacker compared to this kid. If you caught Jenna Bush Hager’s segment this morning (if you didn’t, the video is right above), you already know that Kevin’s a 23-year-old, multitalented, overachieving, “cello-boxing,” Mandarin-speaking, saxophone-playing, pre-med Yale graduate who came in second in a Yo-Yo Ma cello competition and first on NBC’s a cappella show “The Sing-Off.”

But it’s not that.

Video: How 23-year-old prodigy revolutionizes the cello (on this page)

Kevin’s had so much early success that it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s gotten a bit of a swelled head. But he hasn’t. He’s charming and self-effacing and grateful for all he has. And yet I still want to smack him. Why?

Because he gave me this great big bear hug after the interview and affectionately called me “Mom.”

Really? Did he not notice that I’m this hip and cool and cougar-ish producer? Perhaps he was confused by the very trendy shock of gray streaking down the left side of my hair. He might well have mistaken it for a sign of wisdom (my youngest sister sees it as a sign of stupidity; “Dye your hair!” is her mantra to me). He asked me for advice. My advice echoed his manager’s: Stay the same humble and respectful guy you are.

TheGrio’s 100: Kevin Olusola, ‘celloboxer’ extraordinaire

A car for a star
Kevin’s lack of familiarity with the customs of “celebrity” was never more evident than in the panicked phone call he made about 45 minutes before the interview began. As we often do, we’d ordered a car to to bring our guest to our shooting location (Kevin has just moved to L.A. and doesn’t have a car). But he mistakenly thought he would need to come up with his own ride to the car service’s garage, 16 miles from his modest apartment. And when his buddy didn’t show up to take him there, Kevin freaked.

Stephanie Becker
Cellist Kevin Olusola with cameraman Carlos Rigau.

When the car company explained to him that a car was idling outside his apartment waiting to whisk him and his cello to the interview, he seemed both surprised and a bit embarrassed. I found it charming. When I finally met him, all I said was: “We are going to have to teach you how to be a star.” But I’m kind of hoping that never really happens.

Kevin is so refreshingly grateful for all he has, and he couldn’t stop thanking me and Jenna and the crew. I have to tell you, it’s a pleasure to make him happy, even if I’m not doing anything more than my job.

  1. Stories from
    1. Middle School Band Teacher Bridgett Szychulski Charged with Having Sex with Student
    2. Melissa Rivers Breaks Silence for the First Time Since Funeral
    3. America's Next Top Model Finalist Analeigh Tipton Talks Her New Sitcom
    4. Chelsea Clinton's Baby Nursery Décor: It's All About Elephants!
    5. Editor Favorite: The Most Flattering Little Black Pencil Skirt

The highlight for both of us was to come the next day. If you’ve seen this morning’s segment, you know that Kevin became an unexpected YouTube sensation with his inventive rendition of a cello piece called “Julie-O”: 1.3 million hits and counting. It was written by Grammy-winning composer Mark Summer. The two had never met until I tracked down Mark, who was at his mom’s home in the San Fernando Valley.

Mark was performing that night at Theater Raymond Kabbaz, a local place. When I told Kevin we were to meet Mark, I thought he was going to explode in happiness. And when Mark suggested that they jam “Julie-O,” it was probably a 10 on Kevin’s Richter Scale of Joy.

Video: Cello prodigy meets idol, has impromptu jam session (on this page)

Way too often as a TODAY producer I report on young performers who let fame go to their heads, who stray down a path of personal destruction. It gets to you after a while. On the flip side of all that is meeting someone like Kevin: talented, grateful, humble, sweet and charming.    

He’s so genuinely excited about his TODAY show profile, that I have felt, dare I say, a little maternal and nurturing. But, hey, Kevin: Knock off the “mom” stuff, or this producer is likely to claw you like... well, you know, like the cougar I think I am.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Courtesy of Jessica Hester

    Family lauds Miranda Lambert for concert gesture

    9/18/2014 12:34:48 AM +00:00 2014-09-18T00:34:48
  1. Twitter cia Greg Bennett

    Social media tipsters hope to solve Philadelphia hate crime case

    9/17/2014 11:25:24 PM +00:00 2014-09-17T23:25:24
  1. Obama: US will not fight another ground war in Iraq

    The U.S. will not send armed forces to fight a ground war in Iraq, President Barack Obama told service members at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, a day after his top military adviser said he could envision recommending the president deploy ground troops.

    9/17/2014 3:51:00 PM +00:00 2014-09-17T15:51:00
  1. Why one dad hates homework as much as his kid does

    9/17/2014 9:06:38 PM +00:00 2014-09-17T21:06:38