Lone Stars Rising
Country superstars like Garth Brooks, Toby Keith, Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts — to name just a few — are no strangers to giving back to causes near and dear to their hearts.
And following that industry tradition of giving back is rising musical sensation The Texas Tenors, a trio gaining recognition far and wide for their captivating harmonies, cowboyish good looks and genuine charm.
An American success story anchored in faith, hard work and tremendous talent, The Texas Tenors are establishing their own brand of southern success. Fans swoon to their music that blends an astonishing array of musical fare from country and classical to Broadway and gospel.
The trio’s fairytale story began when Olathe resident, husband and father of three J.C. Fisher suggested he and long-time pals Marcus Collins and John Hagen throw a tape together showcasing their collective talents.
While all three had lived in Texas at one time or another, life obligations over time resulted in the friends living a considerable distance apart ̶ Collins lives in L.A. and Hagen resides in Iowa. However, distance could not diminish the melodic magic that happens when the three men join creative forces.
Despite impressive musical backgrounds between them, they had actually only performed together a handful of times. It was a sudden impulse that led the friends to submit a demo tape and test their collective luck at a 2009 Houston, Texas audition for “America’s Got Talent,” a televised talent show judged by Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne, and David Hasselhoff—and 100 million viewers.
The group sang their way to the finals (4th place in Season 4) and remain the highest placing vocal group in the history of “America’s Got Talent.”
Since then, the self-managed trio has recorded one album and has a second CD and a DVD approaching release dates. Millions of fans from Las Vegas, Houston and Branson, Mo., to Scotland, Iceland and the United Kingdom now enjoy these charismatic performers up close and personal.
For Fisher, the whole journey almost seems like a dream.
Described by those close to him as someone who is a positive and genuinely nice guy, he has come a long way from his early years on a Missouri cattle ranch.
Fisher grew up with three older sisters in tiny Pleasant Hope — a speck on the map near Springfield — where he played sports, sang in the school choir and church, tended cattle on the family ranch and hauled hay in the summers.
Fisher’s work ethic no doubt stemmed from seeing the examples set by his mother, a school teacher, and his father, Carl, who drove a Pleasant Hope school bus for 64 years around his schedule of raising cattle. In fact, Fisher’s dad was included in the Guinness Book of World Records this year for longest time served behind the wheel of a school bus. Carl recently turned 80 and has been shuttling kids to and from school since the end of World War II. He may — or may not — retire from driving the bus this year. He says he’s taking it one day at a time.
Much like his parents, Fisher grew up a dedicated worker, but also as a kid with raw talent. Teachers encouraged Fisher to continue his vocal training, and he eventually connected with music on a deeper level at Wichita State University where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in music.
After college, Fisher traveled to Lucca, Italy where he sang in the Puccini festival under the direction of acclaimed Italian maestro Lorenzo Malfatti.
He then pursued a career in live entertainment and performed his solo show on more than 75 cruise ships and traveled to over 65 countries worldwide.
He excelled at his art and dazzled captive audiences with his varied repertoire of songs and engaging charisma.
But perhaps his most important performance came earlier in 1997, when Fisher was asked post-college graduation to be a featured performer at the Miss Kansas pageant.
It was there that he first laid eyes on Jennifer Vannatta, an aspiring news anchor and pageant contender from Lawrence.
“Little did I know I would meet my future wife that day,” recalls Fisher.
Vannatta returned to win the pageant in 1998, and in 1999, when she passed on her Miss Kansas crown, Fisher proposed to the blonde beauty on stage.
The couple married in 2004 and now have two sons and one daughter: Jackson, 5; Jenson, 3; and Jennings, 1.
Today, wife Vannatta-Fisher remains active in the pageant industry and is the co-director for Overland Park-based VanBros and Associates Inc., which produces the Miss USA® and Miss Teen USA® state pageants in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The firm produces the Mrs. United States® Pageants in Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas, as well.
Naturally, Vannatta-Fisher is also her husband’s number one fan.
While Fisher is now on the road frequently thanks to The Texas Tenors’ rapid rise to success, he makes every effort to be home with his wife and three kids every chance he can.
“J.C. makes the most of his time at home,” says Vannatta-Fisher. “He plays with the kids, changes diapers and we take in a lot of Kansas City attractions. I’m very proud of the way he has learned to balance his professional and personal life.”
And although Fisher has come a million miles professionally from his humble beginnings, it is clear that he is still as close as ever to his rock-solid foundation of faith, family and hard work.
For all of Fisher’s musical success and pitch-perfect tone, one might be surprised to learn that in sixth grade, he was diagnosed with 40 percent hearing loss.
He got hearing aids in high school but rarely used them.
It wasn’t until he started singing with Collins and Hagen that he realized he needed to restore his hearing to perfect his tone quality.
Fisher connected with James Wise, Ph.D., F.A.A.A., of Associated Audiologists in Overland Park and together they came up with a solution to afford Fisher the hearing ability he needed as a singer.
He now wears hearing aids to improve his hereditary hearing loss.
As it turned out, it was through Wise that Fisher learned about the upcoming “Sounds of the Season” holiday concert to benefit The Mission Project, a local organization that helps young adults with disabilities like Down syndrome and autism live and work safely in the community with minimal support.
“Dr. Wise asked me if The Texas Tenors would be interested in performing a benefit concert for The Mission Project and of course we said ‘yes,’” said Fisher.
To that end, The Texas Tenors, backed by the Kansas City Symphony, will treat the audience at the December 9 concert to their sensational sound and impromptu comedic elements.
For Fisher, who has been especially instrumental in arranging this unique event, the catalysts behind his involvement with The Mission Project reach back to his childhood.
“For me, it’s very personal,” says Fisher. “I had an uncle named Benny Wayne Fisher that I grew up with who lived just down the road with my grandma. He had Down syndrome. Despite the age difference, we were best friends. His last few years of life were spent in an assisted living environment, which he loved. I’m excited to be a part of this concert for that reason alone.”
The countrified tenor says The Texas Tenors enjoy giving to charitable causes whenever they can.
“We are so excited about the upcoming concert,” says Fisher. “We hope it’s a great success for the sake of the charity, and are really looking forward to performing in the city our family calls home.”
The Texas Tenors’ charitable endeavors reach far and wide thanks to other projects, as well. They have donated a portion of proceeds from the sale of their first album, “The Texas Tenors: Country Roots — Classical Sound,” to Homes for our Troops which builds homes for wounded veterans at no cost to them and they have participated in numerous other fundraising projects for myriad organizations.
Fisher’s gracious nature shines bright as he says, “If we can perform to help someone, then our goal is to get in there and make it happen.”
The endearing essence of Fisher, and indeed all the Texas Tenors, is that life is never too busy nor too full for them to share their talents to help others.
For now, this cowboy is enjoying the ride with a smile as wide as the Texas horizon and is thankful each day for his daily gifts, at home and on stage.
“There are so many things around the corner for us,” says Fisher. “It just keeps getting better and better.”
For more information on The Texas Tenors, visit www.TheTexasTenors.com.
Sounds of the Season
For so many people with cognitive and developmental disabilities, local organization The Mission Project is a tremendous resource. The Mission, Kan.-based group strives to help such young adults live as fully, independently and safely as possible in the community while also assisting them with finding employment opportunities, socializing and recreational activities.
The Texas Tenors, a true American success story and finalists from the fourth season of “America’s Got Talent,” will perform a benefit concert at the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City in early December.
“This holiday concert is such an incredible opportunity for The Mission Project to raise money for young adults with developmental disabilities who want to live, work and belong to a community…just like everyone else their age,” says Bob Randall, president of The Mission Project Board of Directors. “These young adults want independence, and we can give it to them — all while enjoying a memorable holiday concert in one of the nation’s most beautiful performing arts centers.”
WHAT: “Sounds of the Season”
WHO: The Texas Tenors & The Kansas City Symphony
WHY: Benefitting The Mission Project
WHERE: The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
WHEN: December 9; 8 to 10 p.m.
TICKETS: Begin at $50. Order online at www.kcsymphony.org or
by calling (816) 471-0400.