The Texas Tenors are living the American dream.
None of them were born in Texas, but they were living in the right Houston place at the right Texas time.
Pleasant Hope, Mo., native JC Fisher wanted to put together a three tenors group in 2008, so he called Iowa natives John Hagen of Waverly and Marcus Collins of Washington, a graduate of Seymour High School in south-central Iowa.
Fisher knew them, but Hagen and Collins didn’t know each other. They joined forces to sing at a Miss USA pageant Fisher’s wife was working on in Kansas. They clicked, and knew they had something special with their unusual blend of classical, Broadway and country sounds. So they put together a tape and sent it to “America’s Got Talent.”
They not only made the cut for the 2009 season of the NBC-TV talent competition, they wowed the judges and fans, placing fourth. Their career was off and running.
Hagen and Collins will return to Iowa this week with the Texas Tenors when they perform at the Paramount in Cedar Rapids on Thursday.
In the past decade, they’ve performed more than 1,400 concerts in 20 countries, amassed a worldwide fan base, recorded five studio albums and three live albums, and won three Emmy Awards out of five nominations for their 2013 PBS special.
They’ve become the most successful touring music group and highest-selling vocal group in “America’s Got Talent” history, as well as the third highest-selling act, behind Jackie Evancho and Lindsey Stirling, Collins said — all of which helped gain the trio a return trip for “America’s Got Talent: Champions” in 2019.
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“No one would know who we are if not for ‘America’s Got Talent,’” Collins said by phone from his home in Waxahachie, Texas, about 45 minutes south of Dallas. “We give them that credit everywhere we go.”
He described both competitions as “nerve-racking, exciting, once-in-a-lifetime — and all of a sudden, it happens again.”
They didn’t make it to the finals last year, but the judges’ praise gave them “another shot in the arm and validation,” as well as publicity, Hagen said by phone from his Kansas City home.
Now on their 10th anniversary tour, they’ll bring their artistry and band to the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids on Feb. 13, after playing the Adler Theatre in Davenport the night before.
Hagen is looking forward to his return trip to the Paramount, after performing there as a soloist on Mozart’s Requiem in 2005 with the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra, now known as Orchestra Iowa. He also performed in “Otello” with the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre in 2004.
His parents, both retired music teachers, still live in Waverly, and he loves coming back to his home state.
“The people are so wonderful in Iowa,” he said. “We’re always well received and I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given there. I cut my teeth there on the Mozart.”
Both Hagen and Collins credit their teachers in Iowa for believing in them and their musical abilities — especially Collins, who sang soprano until his senior year, when his voice changed.
Even though as adults, all three tenors have very different colors to their voices, the blend works.
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“I have a darker, more baritone quality and a pretty extensive range on both ends that I can draw from,” Hagen said. “Marcus and I are very different, but there’s an area in the middle where depending on the style, you can’t tell if it’s him or me. JC has a sweeter, really clear voice and is the cherry on the top at times. To understand how our voices work in the different registers determines who’s doing what. It depends on the song and what the song needs. It’s really fun — we love the creative process.”
Each one plays a different role behind the scenes, as well. Hagen handles the vocal arrangements, finances and contracts; Collins is the liaison between the agents and venues and makes the travel arrangements; and JC, who also lives in Kansas City, is in charge of the videos.
“We’re having a great ride,” Hagen said. “We wake up every day, work hard and have fun.”
Collins, who has works on stage, screen and cruise ships, is especially proud that they’ve grown into a small business that runs itself; employs “hundreds” of technicians and musicians behind the scenes and onstage when taping specials; and still performs with a live band.
“It’s the all-American Dream,” Collins said. “People can’t ask for more than that.”
If you go
• What: The Texas Tenors
• Where: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
• When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13
• Tickets: $40 to $65; Paramount Ticket Office, (319) 366-8203 or Paramounttheatrecr.com
• Artists’ website: thetexastenors.com
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