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The five-man a capella harmony group Ball in the House will perform at the Dahl Arts Center tonight. From left to right: "Monty" Hill, Jon Ryan, Wallace Thompson, Ben Detty, Dave Guisti.

Through tough times and nearly 20 years, Jon Ryan has always been a part of the group.

"I think what I'm proudest of is that we've been able to keep going through some member changes and tough times," said Ryan, who is a member of Boston-based Ball in the House. "Being part of a band for almost 20 years is something we're really proud of."

The five-part a capella harmony group that will perform at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Dahl Arts Center.

The group is patterned after classic harmony groups such as The Temptations and Boyz II Men while bringing in neo-soul influences like Bruno Mars and Pharrell Williams. Ryan, 45, is the group beat-boxer, and has been with the group since it began in 1998.

"Our first album was in 1999," Ryan said. "Our history before that is kind of murky, with different members and different names, and around 2001 we made the push to go full-time with the group."

Ryan, Wallace Thomas, Ben Detty, Montario "Monty" Hill and Dave Guisti and previous members have recorded two original albums, two Christmas albums, two EPs and a live record in their time together, and have performed with the likes of The Beach Boys, Gladys Knight and Smokey Robinson. However, things haven't always been rosy.

"In 2001, we put a lot of time and effort into building up and recording an album, getting radio promotion, agents, a whole team around us," Ryan said. "The release date was Sept. 11."

Ryan said that on a day they woke up expecting feedback and sales, they woke up to news about the Sept. 11 attacks. 

"It could have been worse," Ryan said. "But it was a lot of work down the drain, because everything stopped, and when things got normal, major label artists were taken care of first, with indie artists kind of left out."

Ryan said that six years later, they had a dispute with a promotions manager over getting radio play and sponsorship opportunities. 

But Ryan said that through the music and their friendships, they've been able to stay afloat, mentioning how a post-9/11 concert was a healing moment for their first setback.

"We wondered whether we should play the show at all, but it ended up being cathartic for a lot of people," Ryan said.

As a beat-boxer, Ryan says that he's always been fascinated with rhythm even more than singing.

"I grew up listening to Prince and James Brown, so hearing the combination of different sounds along with different beats is cool," Ryan said. "And producing it with your voice is a different sound, something unique. I like blowing people away so they'll say, 'Wow, that sounds like real drums.'"

As much as Ryan loves beat-boxing on their songs, including their new original song "Love Ya," he's said he also appreciates softer, drum-free songs like their rendition of "Imagine."

"It's really beautiful with four singers, and with all the junk in the world, it's really powerful to hear those words," Ryan said.

From John Lennon to Motown to contemporary or original songs, Ryan said that audiences will get into the harmonies and beat-boxing of Ball in the House.

"We try to have a blast but take the audience on a journey," Ryan said. "We want to involve everybody, and everyone who comes has a fantastic time."

For more information about the concert, call 394-4101.

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Contact Max B. O'Connell at 394-8427 or

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