A Little Bit Country
By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
May 11, 2011
There are lots of people on campus whose extracurricular activities are in stark contrast to their day job. Kevin Sousa is one of them. And you would never guess by looking at him how he spends his free time.
An academic counselor in the College of Liberal Arts, Sousa is an award-winning country western singer. In March, he and his wife, Melissa, took second place in the traditional duet category at the North American Country Music Association’s annual competition, held in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Before entering the national contest, they won the New Hampshire Country Music Association’s state contest in February in the same category.
And the funny part is, the two had never really sung together before.
“I’ve been singing in weekend bands for about 15 years,” Sousa says. “Melissa got started with karaoke. It was her idea to do something together. She thought it would be fun.”
So, they chose a couple of country classics—“One,” by Tammy Wynette and George Jones, and “You and Me,” by Kitty Wells and Red Foley-- and decided to enter the traditional duo category in the N.H. contest, never expecting to win first place.
“It was pretty surprising. I’m just a weekend singer. I’m not trying to make it big or anything,” says Sousa, who came to UNH seven years ago.
Yet winning second place in the national completion is big for a couple from New Hampshire, where country music isn’t exactly what the state is known for. But Tennessee is. And, spending six days there, where singers competed in everything from gospel to traditional country music, was the experience of a lifetime.
They sang their songs on a Tuesday and got to spend the next several days vacationing in Nashville, where friends were playing in local honkytonks.
“To be in that place—it’s like wanting to act and going to Los Angeles,” Sousa says. “People are playing for change, and they’re some of the best musicians in the world. You feel the history in those places.”
The couple traveled back to Pigeon Forge to attend the announcement of the winners with “little to no expectations.”
“The people we had seen perform were unbelievable.” Sousa says. “There were some really, really good singers.”
Turns out, so were the Sousas. They had such a great time, they are thinking of entering next year’s contests as well. That would mean having to win the N.H. contest again. But if that doesn’t happen, it won’t be for naught.
“We’ve had so much fun,” Sousa says. “And it’s a great way to get away from your everyday job and do something totally different. So, it would be fun to try to go for the big prize.”