Marco Gonzalez, and
Tim MacAlpine Start (To make an efficient start on a long climb)
The Summit's journey began in October of 2002. Shawn Mondragon had just returned to his hometown of Albuquerque, NM from a three year job stint in El Paso, TX. As luck would have it, Marco Gonzalez had also returned to Albuquerque from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he had lived for two years. When hearing of their return, Matt Vaive contacted fellow Duke City Chorus member, Tim MacAlpine, and asked if he might be interested in singing Tenor, that way the other three could try out a new combination. Tim, who had recently switched to Tenor while singing with a non-competitive quartet, said, "Sure, I'll give it a shot!" Matt had sung with Shawn in the Rocky Mountain District 2000 Quartet Champions "Distinction," and had been in contact with him since his departure. This group of four men officially met for the first time on Shawn and Marco's first night back at DCC chorus rehearsal. They sang a few chorus songs and tags together, and really liked what they heard! Tim was asked to join as Tenor, after what he heard, he couldn't say no. Now the search for a name began. Shawn had always been a fan of the "Rat Pack" (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford). Mr. Sinatra hated that name. Frank preferred "the Summit" a gathering of the "best of the best" musical performers, for incredible nights of entertainment. Frank was heard to say if JFK can have his summit, then we can have ours." The name would be "the Summit." Shawn realized months later that if you took the first letters each members name (Shawn, Matt, Marco, Tim), and put them together, (SMMT) it actually sounded like "Summit". (Matt apparently had pointed this out when the name was first proposed, but Shawn wasn't listening, he is mercilessly teased to this day.). The name was meant to be.
Approach (The path or route to the start of a technical climb)
Their first public performance was at the 2002 Duke City Chorus Christmas show. They were invited to sing two songs on the show. They chose "Prayer of the Children" and a parody of the Christmas classic, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (changed to "the Restroom Door Said Gentlemen.") At their very first show, they received a standing ovation. They knew they were on to something.
Dyno (A dynamic move to grab a hold that would otherwise be out of reach)
"the Summit" was now on to their first contest in April. It was the 2003 Preliminary contest for Internationals. They picked four contestable songs, in the hopes of making it to the finals. The group was thrilled as their name was called to compete in the finals. They began their competition journey, placing sixth in their very first contest. The next stop was the 2003 District competition in September. Their goal was to make top five. A goal that they also achieved, placing fifth.
Ascent (Cleanly completing a route)
2004 was a trying but extremely important year for the quartet. The Midwinter convention was to be held in their hometown of Albuquerque in January. The best of the Barber Shop world was in town. "the Summit" was lucky enough to get some coaching from Todd Wilson, the tenor of the 1990 International champion quartet "The Acoustix". After hearing the quartet, Todd suggested "the Summit" was sounding good enough to record an album. His feeling was that, recording an album, would force the group to focus on a common goal, thus, allowing them to work harder and improve their sound. This suggestion was taken to heart and so "the Summit" began recording their first album titled "Ascent".
Epic (An ordinary climb rendered difficult by adverse factors)
After, months of studio time, the album was completely recorded. All that was left, was the final mixing. Unfortunately, difficulties within the quartet arose. Marco, the Bass, was going through personal problems, which took away from quartet rehearsals and led to many delays in recording sessions. It was decided, in the best interest of the group, to look for another Bass. Marco, took this decision in stride and looked upon it as a way to put his life in order. He still remained very close to the quartet. Auditions were held, and another Duke City Chorus member, Michael Busse, was chosen as the replacement. Mike, being a very talented and dedicated Bass, proved to be an excellent choice. However, after a few months, the three founding members realized that even though Mike was doing an outstanding job, the group was no longer the same quartet it was before, when it was, when it was conceived. In order to become the group they knew they had been, and could become, the original Bass had to be a part of it. Another meeting was held with Mike. He was informed of the groups feelings. Mike was very understanding and bowed out gracefully. The group was very grateful to Michael, for if he would not have stepped in when he did, the quartet would not have stayed together. Marco was then contacted. He shared, with the rest of the group, that he had put the previous problems behind him, and after many conversations, tears , and a renewed commitment to the quartet was achieved. "The Summit" was once again whole! Unfortunately, due to the rearranging in personnel, "the Summit" missed out in competing at the 2004 Spring Preliminaries for Internationals in April, and did not compete at the 2004 Fall district competition in September.
Mountain Rescue (A friendly team of people that may come and rescue)
2005 began with "the Summit" attending Rocky Mountain Harmony College in February. They had signed on for the maximum amount of coaching sessions with guest clinicians. In one of the sessions, they were being coached by Rick LaRosa, Lead of the 1999 International quartet champions "Fred." Rick said, "you are all very talented singers, but you all need to put more passion into your performances. I know you can do it so just do it!" What followed was the most emotional rendition of "What'll I Do?" that the quartet had yet performed. Rick's words echoed in their minds all weekend. "the Summit" performed on the Saturday evening show, completely putting their hearts on stage. It was obvious that the RMHC experience took the quartet to a new level.
Anchor (An arrangement of one or more pieces of gear set up to support)
The quartet took the new skills that were learned at Rocky Mountain Harmony College and set their sights on the 2005 Spring Preliminary competition in April. "the Summit" finished third, behind two RMD quartets that are heading to Internationals that year.
Pitch (The portion of a climb between two points)
In May 2005, the quartet was contacted by the Buckeye Invitational, a contest that was created for groups who just missed out on making Internationals, and invited them to compete. Realizing that "the Summit" could not attend the 2005 Rocky Mountain District Fall Competition in September, due to work conflicts, the group accepted the invitation. In June, the group was asked to produce a radio jingle for an Ohio-based Pest control service called "Varmint Guard." Tony Sparks sweated over "barbershopping" an existing jingle lyric and the commercial went on to win several awards, giving "the Summit" a little fame outside of their district. It couldn't have come at a better time, or state, since they were getting ready to compete in Ohio at the Buckeye Invitational. The Buckeye competition awarded four different gold medals: The Grand Champion, Women's Quartet Champion, Men's Quartet Champion and Entertainment Champion. The quartet members set a goal to win the Entertainment Champion Gold. The first four awards were based on the results of a judging panel made up of representatives from the three American Barbershop organizations. The Entertainment Champion was selected by audience member vote. Even though they came in fifth overall, "the Summit" won the gold and became the 2005 Buckeye Invitational Entertainment Champion! This was a big win for the quartet and gave a clue as to where their strengths were - in entertaining audiences.
Exposure (Space below a climber/A great distance above the deck)
The quartet found out in November 2005 that the New Mexico Lottery was in search of a new round of musical spokes-groups to use in their print, radio, and television advertising. "the Summit" was contacted circuitously by way of their main coach, Tony Sparks. Someone at the Lottery had heard of an a cappella group called "Bank Street" and wanted them to audition. Bank Street had, by then, retired as a quartet, but word got to the Summit and they were invited to audition. The NM Lottery selected three groups out of all of the local talent that auditioned, and "the Summit" was one of the chosen. After a one-and-a-half hour audio recording session and seven hours of video (for a thirty second commercial), several months of delay and much anticipation on the part of the quartet, the entire state of New Mexico was introduced to Barbershop via a "fifties-style" video jingle from "the Summit!" The group enjoyed some instant celebrity. Posters of the group were in supermarkets, gas stations, and convenience stores through-out the state. The "Summit" Barbershop television commercial became the most televised commercial of that year's batch due to itâ€™s popularity. It was even run a year longer than intended.
Downclimb (to descend by climbing downward)
The group didn't get back in the competition field until the Spring 2006 Preliminary contest in April. The quartet didn't have a clear goal for improvement, and it showed, as they found themselves down in overall scores from the last contest. This time, the three RMD quartets ahead of them all qualified to compete at the International contest. This is very discouraging for the quartet, but heartening for the district, as the number of international qualifiers kept growing. Determined to become part of that crowd, the Summit set it's sights on the fall convention.
Snow Fluke (An angled plate buried into the snow for anchoring)
In the Summer of 2006, the quartet decided that it was time to record another album. After much discussion, they agreed that their next album would be a Christmas one. Recording sessions begin in August 2006 for "the Summit At Christmastime."
Second (A climber who follows the first)
September 2006 arrived, and the quartet competed in the Rocky Mountain District Fall contest. After the last note was sung on the contest stage, "the Summit" was awarded second place in the district standings, with marginally higher scores than the previous contest. The scoring struck a bit of a sour note, as the feeling of being stuck on a plateau persisted. All of the hard work and drive didn't seem to be doing the trick. After the contest, the quartet regrouped and got back to working extra hard to finish their Christmas album in time for sales beginning in December.
Traverse (To climb in a horizontal direction)
2007 began with the quartet working on a contest package, that they hoped would qualify them for Internationals, which was to be held in their own district that year. "the Summit" scored lower than their last attempt, and behind four RMD quartets who are all heading to Internationals in Denver, "always a bride's made and never a bride." At their quartet evaluations with the judges, the quartet got some key advice from one of the sound judges at the contest, Chad Guyton, Lead of the 2002 International Quartet Champions, "4 Voices." Chad told them that, "the quartet locked, but didn't "ring." They needed to pay more attention to detail and, more importantly, to align their individual sounds by agreeing on using the same resonators. This was the key to giving their "locked" and blended sound real and consistent "ring." If those things were done, he promised, "the Summit" would see a huge jump in their score. The quartet committed to do the work that would allow them to break through that ceiling that had seemed to hang over them for years.
Figure Four (Advanced climbing technique that requires strength and a solid hold) Insufficient scores would not keep the Summit from attending the International Convention in their own district! Shawn had been involved on the RMD board for a couple of years, and along with former RMD President, Tony Pranaitis, had come up with a new activity to encourage more quartet singing at the International contests. It was called "the Tag-In Quartet Experience." The Barbershop Board of Directors gave a thumbs up to the idea, and asked that it be initiated at the 2007 International contest in Denver. "the Summit", along with two other RMD "Top Gun" quartets ("Sounds Appealing," and "SoundScape"), volunteered to execute this experiment. These "Tag-In" quartets were a popular feature at the 2007 convention, and sang more than any quartet that week. Even though "the Summit" was not competing in the Denver Internationals, they got to meet many barbershoppers from around the society and make a name for themselves.
Apex (the climax; another word for Summit)
"the Summit" was once again invited to compete at the 2007 Buckeye Invitational. When the group found out that, after twenty years, this was going to be the final Buckeye contest, they knew they had to be there. The competition was held over two days. The rules of the contest were modeled after the popular television show "American Idol". Quartets were brought onto the stage, two at a time, for a two song "sing off". The audience, via a special hand held voting device, would vote for the quartet they wanted to see move on to the next round. A barbershop panel of judges scored the first two rounds. After the two "contest set" rounds were over, the results for the "Standard Quartet" medallists were announced , "your second place silver medallist quartet---from the Rocky Mountain District -- "the Summit!" It turns out that they were edged out of the gold by only three points. The quartet that took the gold in that category was a group called, "APEX". It was made up of three former Johnny Appleseed District Quartet Champions and one International Silver Medallist, all who had been to "the Big Show" (Internationals) several times each. To find out they were only three points away from a quartet of that caliber, the guys knew they were headed in the right direction. They moved on to the final set. That set was going to determine the final Buckeye Grand Champion. They decided that they just needed to do what they did best, forget about everything else and entertain the audience! "the Summit" had fun singing their final set, and then awaited the results. The announcement was made, "your second place quartet is APEX! And your final Buckeye Invitational Grand Champion is ¦the Summit!"
Tension (Maintaining balance through a point of protection)
Early that summer, Marco had informed the quartet that it was going to be necessary for him to move to Alabama, so he could take care of his parents. His father John, had been diagnosed with a Cancerous tumor localized in the brain, and his mother needed him to be there for support. Six weeks before the Rocky Mountain District competition, Marco moved to Alabama. "the Summit" had now become a long-distance quartet.
Dynamic Motion (Any move in which momentum is used to progress)
The quartet made a conscious decision to buckle down and do whatever it took to win the quartet championship at the 2007 Rocky Mountain District fall contest which was going to be held in their hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The quartet had already been rehearsing twice a week for years, and continued to do so without their Bassman. Marco flew into Albuquerque every two weeks, for concentrated weekend rehearsals. The weekend of the contest quickly arrived. The quartet was ready. The mind-set for the convention was "let go and have fun." After the semi-finals round, the guys were getting the now customary comments "you've got it!" and "your my pick!" However, this time it felt very different. This time the quartet felt that it was about entertaining those people, and giving them what they obviously wanted -- for "the Summit" to do well. On September, 29th, 2007 "the Summit" achieved their dream of becoming a Rocky Mountain District Quartet Champion with a final score of 78.3%. Quite a jump from their last contest five months earlier where they scored a 72.2%! They are definitely on to something.
Footing (A foothold, grip, balance)
"the Summit" has proved to themselves that, with hard work, a group of dedicated singers can achieve greatness. They would like to thank the Duke City Chorus, as well as their ladies: Darlene, Marianne, and Dianne for all of their love and support. They would like to thank the coaches they have had throughout the years that were kind enough to share their knowledge, their time, and inspiration that led them to reach for the gold: Farris Collins, Todd Wilson, Chad Guyton, Tony DeRossa, Joe Connelly, Rick LaRosa, and Bill Biffle. "the Summit" would like to send out a very special debt of gratitude to their "steady coach" who has been there for them since the beginning --Tony Sparks! "the Summit" is honored to be among the list of great quartets who have won the district quartet title and, like many of them (such as: The Classic Collection, Bank Street, Storm Front, NeXus and Ignition!) have gone on to make a huge impression on the International stage. They are looking onward and upward to what approaches, in the hopes that they can earn the opportunity to also entertain on the International stage and bring recognition to the Rocky Mountain District.