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From NBC’s TODAY Show and America’s Got Talent to Conducting at Rutgers

By Amber E. Hopkins-Jenkins

Rutgers Today

britt1Sugary pop tunes are a far cry from orchestral music.

But a penchant for pop is precisely what drew classically trained composer Colin Britt and his comrades in The 3Penny Chorus and Orchestra together last summer to cover Carly Rae Jepsen’s mega hit, “Call Me Maybe.”

“We’re all classical musicians with a playful affection for pop music. ‘Call Me Maybe’ was parodied so much, so it was all about how big, how over the top we could make our cover of the song,” said Britt, who began his doctorate in choral conducting at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts this fall. It was one of the most popular songs of 2012; everyone loved to hate it and hated to love it.”

While an orchestral and choral take on the catchy tune was a no brainer for Britt – arranging classical renditions of songs at the top of the pop music charts is one of his favorite pastimes – he had no idea his interpretation would become a viral video sensation.

3Penny’s “Call Me Maybe” cover racked up more than 500,000 views within one week and reached 2 million hits only a month later. The classical musicians were even invited to perform live on The Today Show in September 2012.

It all felt like 15 minutes of fame until 3Penny joined forces this April to audition for America’s Got Talent, NBC’s reality television talent showcase that features performers of all ages competing for $1 million.

As the singers and players took the stage, celebrity judge Howard Stern quipped that he found orchestral music boring. But Britt’s rendering of “Call Me Maybe” won over both the audience and the show’s celebrity judges – Heidi Klum, former Spice Girl Mel B., Howie Mandel … and even Stern.