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Eastern Iowa Barbershop Quartet Stars In New Lottery Commercials

Members Are From Cedar Rapids, Marion, Iowa City and Blairstown

SwitchBack   Hear SwitchBack tell their story.

DES MOINES, Iowa - A men's barbershop quartet from eastern Iowa has a starring role in commercials running statewide to promote four new Iowa Lottery games.

The television and radio spots, which started airing Monday, feature the SwitchBack quartet on stage, smiling broadly and singing to the camera. The members of the quartet, outfitted in eye-catching silver jackets, sing a harmonic jingle about the lottery's "Make My Day™," "Make My Week™," "Make My Month™," and "Make My Year™" instant-scratch games.

SwitchBack's members are: John Hayden from Blairstown, Lee Thomsen from Marion, Erik Sherard from Cedar Rapids and Terry Blessing from Iowa City. All four have collegiate singing experience, three are members of the Harmony Hawks Barbershop Chorus in Cedar Rapids, and two are music educators in school districts in Linn and Benton counties.

The group was formed in late fall 2012 when Hayden, Thomsen and Sherard needed a substitute to complete their quartet. Blessing joined the group, the other men switched parts to accommodate the new voice and that's how the name "SwitchBack" was born.

"That's part of the source of our name," Thomsen said. "SwitchBack is this switching around."

SwitchBack was chosen by a selection committee for the lottery spots from many video and audio files featuring quartets from across the state. The commercials were produced by a music arranger, an advertising agency and production studios based in Iowa.

Teri Wood, the lottery's vice president of marketing, said the mid-December commercial production with SwitchBack progressed quickly.

"They just nailed the song in the script and that really helped keep things moving," she said. "It was a fun session. We're always glad when we can showcase local Iowa talent in our ads."

The lottery spots are the group's first commercial appearance.

"Now we can say we're studio recording artists," Hayden said with a smile.

Thomsen, 31, sings bass in the lottery's production. He is a music teacher at Starry Elementary School in the Marion Independent School District and an assistant director of the Harmony Hawks.

Sherard, 31, the baritone voice in the lottery's production, said that even though the group has only been singing together for about a year, a strong friendship has developed amongst SwitchBack's members and their families.

"I like the sound and the brotherhood of being with just four guys in a quartet setting," he said. "You become really close."

Sherard said he thinks that participating in the lottery advertising campaign will bring recognition to the group.

"It's fun to see and be part of the process," he said. "We've never done that before."

Hayden, 43, sings lead in the lottery's production. He teaches choral music in the Benton Community School District and directs the Harmony Hawks Barbershop Chorus. He said he enjoys the challenge of a cappella singing.

"If it's not good, it's bad; that's the thing with barbershop," he said. "You either make that a cappella sound work or it's not there."

Blessing, 30, who sings tenor in the lottery's production, said that family, jobs, and other commitments make it difficult for SwitchBack to rehearse more than three or four times a month, but each quartet member works individually to master their voice part.

"With only four there's nowhere to hide," he said. "You have to know your stuff."

SwitchBack participated in a regional barbershop quartet competition in Kansas City, Mo., this past fall and hopes to qualify in April for an international competition scheduled this summer in Las Vegas.

The lottery's new Make My Day™, Make My Week™, Make My Month™ and Make My Year™ scratch games hit the market Monday. The group of tickets has a similar look, feel and gameplay, but varies in size, cost and prizes offered. The price point and top prize increase with the length of time indicated in the game's name. For example, players can win up to $5,000 playing the $1 Make My Day™ game, but can win up to $100,000 playing the $10 Make My Year™ game. Players scratch the "stars" in the playing area on each ticket and match game symbols to win prizes.

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