For some folks, being on a reality TV show is a brief escape from everyday life, a chance for their one shot at fame.

For Michael Odokara-Okigbo of Portland, being on reality TV last fall was a wake up-call, convincing him of what career he wanted to — needed to — pursue.

Odokara-Okigbo was seen weekly competing on the NBC a cappella singing competition show “The Sing-Off” with his college group, the Dartmouth Aires. He sang lead on most of the songs, gaining constant praise from the judges and helping his group earn an overall second-place finish.

” ‘The Sing-Off’ showed me what a music career might be like,” said Odokara-Okigbo, 22. “I had always been afraid of pursuing that type of field, but ‘The Sing-Off’ reaffirmed for me that (music) is what I’m meant to do. We were working 16-hour days, and it didn’t feel like work.”

Being on the show and meeting with people working in show business reminded Odokara-Okigbo of how much he loves performing, and convinced him that he needed to try to pursue a career in music or acting. He had been in the Boy Singers of Maine as a youngster before joining the Dartmouth Aires in college.

Even though he’s decided to pursue music as a career, Odokara-Okigbo says he still can’t disclose what his immediate plans are.

When people are on reality shows, they often sign confidentiality agreements, so he might have done that with the “Sing-Off” folks or someone he met out in Hollywood. But for now, he says, he can’t say.

Either way, he’s busy these days. Earlier this month, he was studying for finals in preparation for his graduation last Sunday from Dartmouth with a degree in history. He was planning to move to Los Angeles soon after graduation to start working on a career focusing on music and/or acting.

But before he gets too busy with his career, Odokara-Okigbo and the Dartmouth Aires are taking some time to perform in Maine.

They’re scheduled to give a concert Sunday afternoon at Merrill Auditorium in Portland and on Monday afternoon at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick. There is also a Monday-night show in Brunswick, but it’s sold out.

“We’re excited to be doing these, and we’re certainly going to do high-energy shows,” said Odokara-Okigbo, adding that the group will probably do songs they did on “The Sing-Off.”

The Dartmouth Aires do a wide range of music using their voices as the only instruments. On “The Sing-Off,” they wowed the judges with a version of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” a medley of Queen songs and “Shout” by the Isley Brothers.

Unlike some folks who go after a musical dream, Odokara-Okigbo has sort of a head start. He was on national TV, and the folks at NBC and “The Sing-Off” know what he can do.

Plus, he’s not exactly unprepared to get a job outside of music. He has a college degree, and has long been interested in getting involved in some sort of global health endeavor.

Odokara-Okigbo has also shown that he thinks big, and has been doing so since he was a youngster. As a student at Waynflete School in Portland, he traveled with his mother to Nigeria, where some of his family is from. Before going, he got donations of clothes to give to Nigerian orphans.

When he got back from the trip, he organized the Mugadi Foundation to continue to help pay for orphans in Lagos, Nigeria, to attend school. While in high school and college, Odokara-Okigbo continued to seek donations for the foundation.

The foundation continues today with a mission of helping children and young adults around the world.

Some of the proceeds from the Portland show will go toward a Mugadi Foundation project aimed at helping underprivileged children in Ethiopia. Odokara-Okigbo estimates that the foundation has raised $100,000 or more and helped some 500 children.

Some proceeds of the Portland Dartmouth Aires concert will also help support the Greater Portland Festival of Nations and the Boy Singers of Maine, who are also performing at the Portland show.

Odokara-Okigbo hopes that as he pursues a career in music, he can grow his foundation and continue its work funneling money to people and groups who can use it.

“I feel lucky to be able to do what I’m doing, and I hope this will help me do more with the foundation too,” he said. 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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Twitter: RayRouthier