The term “rapscallion,” meaning “rascally” or “roguish,” turned out to be an accurate portrayal of four talented young upstarts from Ohio. The turn of the century term resurfaced within the popular barbershop lexicon in 1984 when these four young men took the stage during the St. Louis International Convention. In four short years The Rapscallions (David Smotzer – tenor, David Wallace – lead, Timothy Frye – bari, Jeff Oxley – bass) won the Johnny Appleseed District title and reached the top of the barbershop world winning the coveted Gold.
They began their musical journey together at the Barbershop powerhouse, Bowling Green State University. All were members of BGSU’s Men’s Chorus under the tutelage and mentorship of Richard Mathey.
All natural baritones, The Raps formed in February 1980 with the intention of auditioning and performing that summer on the shores of Lake Erie at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. After being selected from over 100 groups, the four young lads were awarded the feature quartet gig at the “Red Garter Saloon.” There they forged their unique sound and performance style while performing 444 show.
All but Jeff were already barbershoppers but competition was not a thought until the summer job ended and they decided their sound was special…and it was. Early on the four guys found they were able to lock and ring chords that some of their contemporaries could not. They registered and set their sights on competition.
Dave Smotzer was involved in musical theater and chose to sing tenor. He later went on to become the director of the Cincinnati Southern Gateway Chorus.
Dave Wallace sang lead and was studying musical composition. After BGSU he became the director of the Sweet Adeline’s’ City of Flags chapter in Canton.
Jeff Oxley bass, studied vocal performance and was involved in many operatic productions and leading roles at BGSU Some being “Don Quixote” in “Man of LaMancha” and “Figaro” in “The Marriage of Figaro.” He then moved to continue his vocal training at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
Tim Frye sang baritone, earned a degree in music education and directed the Wayne-aires of the Wayne County Chapter in Wooster.
In the fall of 1981 “The Raps” won the Johnny Appleseed District Quartet Championship. In International competition they also moved up fast, placing ninth in 1982 and sixth in 1983. They never placed out of the top 10.
In between they continued their summer amusement park habit by performing at King’s Island near Cincinnati.
They won in St. Louis in ’84 and staged three entertaining sets for the judges and the audience of loyal fans. The Johnny Appleseed District embraced the quartet from the beginning and their support, along with family, was an integral part of their success. They credit the help of several coaches with their progress, Darryl Flinn, Tom and John Sommer, Bob Mucha, Glenn Van Tassel and in particular, Don Clause.
They were soon on the road singing barbershop shows, on a tour of Europe (Austria, Yugoslavia, Italy and Germany) representing the Society as champs.
“The Rapscallions” produced only one LP, “Premiere” with some spectacular performances preserved. Looking at the World With Rose Colored Glasses, The Barbershop Strut, They Go Wild, Simply Wild Over Me, Toyland, Mr. Touchdown U.S.A., All American Girl, Please Mr. Columbus, Last Night Was The End Of The World, and Toot, Toot Tootsie / Goodbye My Lady Love.
Today there have been many quartets with the title of “college champs.” The MBNA Collegiate Quartet competition began in 1992. The Raps could be considered the FIRST collegiate quartet champs as all would have certainly qualified and probably won had there been such a contest in the early ‘80s.
They went their separate ways to start starting families and careers following the 1986 AIC show at the Salt Lake City International Convention.
Where Are They Now?
David Wallace is active in many styles of music as a published composer, church musician and choral clinician. He’s now directing the “Heart of Ohio” Sweet Adelines chorus, and regularly coaches around the country some of the best choruses in both organizations. In Sweet Adeline Lake Erie Region 17 he was the very first Master Director, a designation he earned while directing the “City of Flags” chorus. Under his direction the chorus earned 7 regional championships and finished as high as 7th at International competition.
David Wallace is happily married to wife Sandy, and together they have 6 children, 2 son-in-laws, and 1 grandchild. He is the 7th best piano player – in his own family! Sandy is a pianist on the staff at Kent State University. Daughter Chelsea is a music teacher and her husband Bobby Selvaggio is a nationally recognized jazz saxophonist, having recorded with the likes of Jamey Haddad, Kenny Werner, Sean Jones and many others. Twins Josh and Tyler haven’t been involved in music since high school, but are talented singers. Daughter Shannon is a professional speech therapist, but also a skilled flautist and singer. Sons Dorian and Elliot are currently majoring in music composition, with an emphasis in piano at Kent State University, and percussion at the University of Akron, respectively. The current big news in the Wallace household is that Dorian’s most recent piano trio composition will be premiered in April by none other than the world famous Cleveland Orchestra Piano Trio.
David Smotzer directed the San Antonio Chordsmen and currently directs the Independence Chapter of JAD and is looking forward to his chorus accompanying him to Anaheim as the mic-testing chorus this summer. David continues to coach men’s and women’s quartets and choruses around the country, and is a frequent featured faculty member at JAD’s harmony education program (Apple Corps) and at numerous JAD coaching schools. He occasionally plays trombone in a jazz/swing band, and continues to enjoy quarteting with The News. Dave is a professional contractor. He resides in University Heights with his lovely wife Eileen, his daughter Helen Rose (almost sweet 16), and two rascally shih tzus, Johnnie Rocko and Kato.
Tim Frye continues to work in the field of Special Education, is married to Jody, a nurse, and has two children, Andrew 17 and Abigail 11.
The “Ox” has continued in the Society with the most success. He moved to Dallas where he joined the Vocal Majority Chorus and began singing with Class of the 80s. They retooled and changed their name to Acoustix winning International on their first try in 1990. He quickly became an admired soloist, bass section leader, chorus vocal coach and Assistant Director with the VM. Jeff later became Musical Director of California’s Masters of Harmony where he guided them to the 1999 Chorus Championship. Most recently he became only the third Society member to win THREE quartet gold medals with the 2007 championship of Max Q. Jeff is actively employed in Dallas as a first call studio vocalist. You can hear his voice world wide on thousands of radio IDs and commercial voice-overs. Jeff states “My most fulfilling and important endeavor is being married to my beautiful wife Susan and the proud father of 7-year old, Blake and 3-year old, Lily”.
Looking back, The Raps rose through the ranks in record time, braking traditions. Being “rascally” paid off for the Raps.
Other AIC members who came out of the Bowling Green State University music program are Ben Ayling and DJ Hiner of “The Ritz”, Randy “Beef” Baughman and Mark Blake of “Yesteryear”, Gary Lewis of “Platinum” and “Max Q” and Jay Hawkins of “Interstate Rivals” and “Marquis”. The current Johnny Appleseed District International Chorus representative and sixth place finalist is directed by BGSU alum Dave Calland. College Champs from BGSU are 1994 The Real Deal, 1995 Stop The Presses and 2002 Catfish Bend.