Former Brahma sets the beat



DBHS 2008 alumnus Niko Del Ray (second from right) developed a career in the a cappella group The Filharmonic, and went on to be part of the movie “Pitch Perfect 2” as one of the competing singing groups.

Emily Jacobsson, A&E Editor

As a member of Marquis during his time at Diamond Bar High School, alumnus Niko Del Rey was accustomed to performing to recorded music. Now, as the beatboxer for a cappella group The Filharmonic, Del Rey has made a career for himself as the group’s own backing track.

After graduating from DBHS in 2008, Del Rey attended Mt. SAC, where he was involved in the jazz choir and a capella group. Del Rey then transferred to UC Riverside, where he earned his degree in political science. Even as a student at UCR, Del Rey continued to sing at Mt. SAC.

 Avi Kaplan, a fellow Mt. SAC alumni and friend of Del Rey, as well as bass vocalist of Pentatonix, suggested to Del Rey and two others who were singing at Mt. SAC that they should form an a capella group. The group was originally created to compete in NBC’s “The Sing Off,” a singing competition show exclusively for a capella groups.

As Del Rey and Jules Cruz, the bass vocalist of The Filharmonic, were both passionate about promoting Filipino culture and bringing more attention to it into mainstream culture, they gladly took the chance to compete.

They contacted other Filipino singers in the Los Angeles area to help them audition and compete on the show.

Since making it to the semifinals on the show and finishing in fourth place, the group has enjoyed further success. In 2016, they performed in over 200 shows and were featured in “Pitch Perfect 2.”

Recently, the group has also been recurring guests on James Corden’s “Late Late Show,” acting as the soundtrack to his many riff-offs.  

“It’s a dream come true really. Taking a college passion and turning it into a career has been such a blessing,” Del Rey said via email. “Moreover, being apart of ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ and the ‘Late Late Show’ further validates us and the Filipino community that we too have a spot amongst mainstream media. Not the mention everyone we get to work with is the coolest.”

To go to the next level, the group is looking to soon create original music. However, it is no easy task, as Del Rey feels that as an artist making original music is one of the biggest struggles.

Music aside, Del Rey and the rest of the group have also had to deal with the physical exhaustion that comes with frequent traveling.

“Getting used to all the red-eye travel [and] sleepless nights has taken a toll on all of us physically, but we’re very grateful to be pursuing our dreams day in and day out.”

At DBHS, Del Rey was in Marquis for three years and varsity golf for four years. Both activities helped prepare him to perform because they took hard work and dedication.

 Del Rey fondly remembers all of the teachers he had at DBHS and feels as if they all held a significant role in his upbringing. He is especially thankful for the work ethic that teachers Tony McCabe, Ty Watkins and Patty Breitag instilled in him.

“I’ll never forget the life lessons my coaches taught me on and off the course, and I’ll never forget the patience teachers showed me when I was being difficult or if I had trouble learning the material, Ms. Auten, Mr. Kuo and Sra. Sorensen just to name a few,” Del Rey said.

While currently serving as a member of The Filharmonic is Del Rey’s full time job, he still entertains the idea of a few personal side projects.

He also hopes to begin acting this year. Del Rey’s tweets daily about his life and current projects at @Niko_Del_Rey.

To the students who are now in the position he was in nine years ago and share the dream of performing music, Del Rey recommends getting started immediately in pursuing their dreams.

“Don’t start tomorrow. Instead, start today and just keep getting better than you were yesterday, you’ll get to where you want to be, I promise.”