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Boston University Grad student quartet vying for the prize on America’s Got Talent

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Boston University Grad student quartet vying for the prize on America’s Got Talent
Cordaro Rodriguez, keyboards; Micah Christian, lead vocals; Mason Morton, harp; Kendall Ramseur, cello

“This whole experience seems surreal. It’s crazy to think that Sons of Serendip didn’t exist six months ago, and then to see how quickly things have taken off for us. It’s really amazing,” says Sons of Serendip’s Kendall Ramseur of his group’s journey on NBC’s hit reality show “America’s Got Talent.”

Sons of Serendip, a classical, neo-soul, R&B fusion quartet, is made up of Ramseur, Micah Christian, Mason Morton and Cordaro Rodriguez. The four young African American musicians met at Boston University and over the past few months have created the most amazing and beautiful music together as they compete for the top prize on America’s Got Talent. Of their performance this past June of “Somewhere Only We Know,” a 2004 song by the band Keane, judge Mel B said, “It’s transported me to somewhere else.”

In addition to Mel B (real name Melanie Brown), America’s Got Talent also features Howard Stern, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel as judges, and returned to prime time in May for its ninth season. The reality series is hosted by Nick Cannon and features an array of contestants from singers, dancers and comedians to contortionists, magicians, ventriloquists and more, all vying for their chance to win a $1 million prize.

From the moment each Sons of Serendip member met, it was “like pieces of a puzzle coming together,” says Christian, intersecting at different points and creating a more colorful picture. The four met through a series of events while attending graduate school at Boston University. Christian first met Rodriguez during his second year in Theology School in 2009 while doing an internship at Marsh Chapel. Ramseur and Rodriguez were friends who grew up together in North Carolina and reconnected at Boston University. Initially, Rodriguez’s pre-law advisor at Princeton University had suggested Boston College School of Law to him. Somehow, he applied to Boston University School of Law instead, which turned out to be “a wonderful mistake,” says Rodriguez.

Morton first met Ramseur when he arrived in Boston in the fall of 2010 looking for a place to live. The Atlanta native says he arrived in the city “in a Ford Explorer packed with a harp, clothes, and music.” He learned from a friend about a place in Cambridge, and at the time had no idea who was living in the house. As it turned out, Ramseur was the potential roommate. A year later, Rodriguez moved in and he introduced Ramseur to Christian. The four soon became fast friends.

Ranging in age from 26 to 30 years old, all four men grew up in families where music and playing instruments were a part of their lives. Christian, the lead vocalist, from Randolph, Mass., is the son of local artist and painter Chuck Christian, who has been an inspiration to him. “He helps me to see that this is possible,” Christian says of his father.

A self-taught musician, pianist, guitarist, and a lawyer, Rodriguez didn’t come from a family of musicians, but his dad valued music so much that he bought his children a multitude of musical instruments including a saxophone, guitar, piano, drums, and more. Rodriguez recalls, “music wasn’t necessarily my life, but it was one of the things that made me most happy and kept me most at peace. I couldn’t wait to finish my homework just to get in an hour or two of piano.”

Ramseur’s mother played clarinet in school, and his dad was a manager of artists. “I remember being presented with the option of playing the violin, viola, and bass, but for some reason the cello stuck out to me. I think it was its warm tone and its resemblance to the human voice,” he says.

Morton, the harpist in the group, began his music career at age twelve when teacher Roselyn Lewis asked his class, “who would like to learn to play the harp for free?” Morton’s family couldn’t afford to pay for his piano lessons, he said, “so I simply started the harp because it was a free way to express myself musically.”

This past January Christian, who has traveled to Honduras, Peru, and India as a missionary, knew he wanted to make music a bigger part of his life. He heard about the auditions for “America’s Got Talent” and went to the guys about auditioning for the show. They put together a video and sent it in, never expecting to get a call back. But three weeks later they did receive a call, asking them if they would be interested in performing before a live audience. They quickly came up with a name for the group. They decided on the name Sons of Serendip based on the Persian fable The Three Princes of Serendip which is thought to be the source of the word “serendipity.”

Since that fateful phone call, the group has been “trying to take it day-by-day, moment-by-moment,” says Christian.

When asked what they hope to accomplish by being on the show, Ramseur states that “it is our hope that we are able to inspire people all over the world. We try to create positive, heart-felt experiences through our music—music that feeds the soul.”

Rodriguez says, “I feel something will be accomplished far beyond anything we intentionally set out to accomplish and the nature of whatever it is, I believe, will be very positive.”

Morton hopes America’s Got Talent will “help make it possible for all of us to make a full-time career out of music. We believe that this national exposure will help us to record albums, perform concerts and most importantly provide listeners with emotionally-moving music.”

And finally, Christian responds that he tries to live by the Howard Thurman quote, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

See Sons of Serendip performing in the quarter-final round of America’s Got Talent on Tuesday, August 12 on NBC.

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