The a capella group featuring TU students and alumni have also released their first EP to streaming platforms
In 2015, a group of friends and students at Towson University wanted to find a way to make music together.
Through their passion for singing, they formed the Towson Trills, a student organization and a capella group that took campus by storm. They would sing at local and campus events, win Towson University sponsored talent shows and even performed on Broadway by competing in the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella competition.
When many of the founding members graduated in 2019, the Towson Trills didn’t really expect to continue. They were no longer a student organization, but had become family to one another.
Following a name change to just The Trills, the group transitioned to a professional music group.
“For the first couple of years, I was one of the people saying we were going to end after we graduate because, selfishly, I wanted to be our little perfect gem of a group that we just had for four years,” says Aaron Bayne ’19, a founding member of the Trills and the groups vocal percussionist.
“It’s become our place. It’s who we are. We want to put out the highest quality of music we can and really just do this to the fullest capacity we can so we can look back and have no regrets.”
The Trills feature four Towson University alumni—Bayne, Leroy Hyson ’19 (bass), Will Damanka Jr. ’19 (tenor) and Kathryn Marie ’19 (soprano)—and two current students—Missy Melkonian ’22 (alto) and Nick Zuelsdorf ’21 (baritone).
When the four alumni graduated from TU back in 2019, they asked Melkonian and Zuelsdorf if they would be interested in continuing the group off campus. The two undergraduates didn’t hesitate to say yes.
“I’ve made music my whole life and I’ve always loved making music, but there's a difference between making music by yourself and making music with people you love,” Melkonian says. “The fact the six of us genuinely connect and genuinely love each other helps so much with what we want to achieve.”
Despite the pandemic and having full-time jobs or being full-time students, the six-person group has worked to make waves with their voices.
This holiday season, the Trills released their first EP, Like it’s Christmas, a collection of some of the group’s favorite Christmas songs and can be found on music service like Spotify, YouTube Music and Apple Music.
The group has also been making a name for themselves on social media. The group’s TikTok now boasts over 3.6 million followers and went viral after showcasing their takes on sea shanties.
The pandemic quarantine period allowed them to be more creative with their social media platforms.
“Like many, COVID was a very hard time for us, but it also gave us an opportunity to try new things,” Hyson says. “One of those new things was TikTok, and 3.4 million followers later it’s crazy to think our music is reaching more people around the world now.
“We have people from random countries that you would never think would listen to a little a capella group from Towson singing a capella. But they are, and they’re loving it.”
With a major social media following, the Trills were able to sign a management deal through Underscore Talent, which is based out of Los Angeles. Working with their new management group, the group has been able to celebrate some amazing moments this holiday season.
The Trills started December by being the opening act for legendary a capella group Straight No Chaser on the Baltimore stop of their “The High Life Tour.” Then the group appeared on WBAL’s Fifth Annual Season to Celebrate, the Baltimore NBC affiliate’s annual holiday special. It’s the second time the group has performed on the program.
The Trills were able to make another splash in the Baltimore area, as they performed the National Anthem in front of over 70,000 fans during Sunday’s Baltimore Ravens game against the Green Bay Packers.
“I feel like, once you’ve sang the National Anthem, especially at a major sporting event, it feels like you’ve made it,” laughs Zuelsdorf. “I just feel like that’s a precedent. It’s so surreal, iconic, crazy and really terrifying in the best way possible. I was so freaking excited.”
“We want to capture the eye and the ear of the local community,” Hyson adds. “We’ve had a lot of eyes and ears on us worldwide and in other parts of the country, but not a strong base in our own community. So, singing the national anthem for our hometown football team, it’s so perfect.”
Somehow, the Trills continued to top it. Recently the Trills have been singing songs off of Kelly Clarkson’s Christmas album in hopes to get a shoutout from the Grammy-nominated singer and daytime talk show host.
The group got more than that. Clarkson interviewed the group during a segment of her show that aired on Monday, December 20.
“This whole month has been like dream come true after dream come true,” Damanka says. “Just the past few weeks alone we’ve been doing so many interviews, and having Kelly Clarkson literally saying our name, it’s just been shell-shocking to think that this is where we actually are and it’s actually happening.”
The group of friends started by making music in their Towson University dorm rooms. Six years later, they are on the precipice of stardom thanks to a December to remember.
“We wouldn’t exist with Towson University, plain and simple,” Bayne says. “The support we got from President Kim Schatzel, the SGA and Towson University was just monumental.”
“The best decision I’ve ever made was coming to Towson University,” adds Melkonian. “As soon as I visited, I fell in love with it, and it just paved my path and group’s path perfectly.”