Several months ago at his parents' Naperville home, Randy Stine stumbled on an issue of his high school newspaper in which seniors talk about their future plans.
He doesn't remember writing that he wanted to be a successful singer in an a cappella group, but there it was in black and white.
"I was totally stunned to go back and read that," he said. "I don't remember knowing a cappella that well back then."
He certainly knows it now.
Stine, 36, is one of 10 members of Straight No Chaser, a pop music a cappella group that records with Atlantic Records and tours nationwide.
"We're a bunch of guys who feel really really blessed to be doing what we're doing," said Stine, who sings bass. "We still every day can't believe this is happening."
Stine's love of music started in elementary school, but carrying his trumpet home every day to practice was a pain. Singing didn't require instrument schlepping so he thought he'd try that instead.
He went on to sing while at Jefferson Junior High and Naperville North where he appeared in productions like "Oklahoma" and "The Mikado" before graduating in 1995.
When he got to Indiana University, the school didn't have an a cappella group, so he and friends from the show choir decided to start one themselves.
"We all kept saying we want to do some of our own music," Stine said. "And we also want to mainly sing for girls at sororities."
Sure enough, the group's first event was an early morning time slot at a Greek event, but word of their talent spread and they started performing around campus, eventually becoming university ambassadors who sang at out-of-state events.
When the founding members started graduating, they let other students pick up where they left off and went their own ways. For Stine, who earned a telecommunications degree, that meant working in the IT industry, although he found himself missing music.
In 2006, Indiana University decided to hold a 10-year reunion for the original group and Stine went to work putting together video footage to get his friends back into the spirit. The clips were from a 1998 concert where the group sang their own version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" complete with a few lines from Toto's "Africa." He uploaded the video to an up-and-coming website called YouTube and the video went viral.
When the CEO of Atlantic Records called Stine on New Year's Day 2008, he thought it was a prank. But not long after, he and the guys found themselves in New York singing for record executives, which he called "surreal."
"Never in a million years would I think this is where I would be," he said.
Straight No Chaser signed with Atlantic and has since released albums like "With a Twist," "Christmas Cheers" and "Under the Influence" and collaborated with Paul McCartney, Seal, Rob Thomas, Jason Mraz, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Phil Collins, Dolly Parton and more.
As the group's name and collaborators imply, Straight No Chaser isn't a traditional a cappella group. Stine said it is made up of "guys' guys," who like to have fun with the audience.
"We kind of go as broad as possible so we know if … this isn't their favorite song or they don't know the song the next one is one they'll know and love," Stine said.
For Stine, the group is a full-time job and much of the year is spent on the road. When they're not touring, each of the group members has a home studio so they can record and mix tracks and send them to each other around the country.
For the next month, they will be playing shows on the East Coast. Then they hit the road again for the nationwide Happy Hour Tour in October.
Stine, who lives in Chicago, said he misses family and friends when he's on the road, but he also loves seeing places he may never have otherwise. Still, his favorite venue is the Chicago Theatre, both for its history and the hometown crowd. The group will be playing two shows there on Dec. 14.
In the audience will be retired Naperville North choral director Jim Yarbrough, who already has seen a handful of Stine's shows.
Yarbrough recalls Stine being a talented singer in high school, although he didn't necessarily stand out among the crowd of talented vocalists in his class. But Stine, he said, was "goal driven."
"I think he's a great example of right place, right time and … allowing things to happen around him and with him," Yarbrough said. "He's definitely worked hard for it."