When Al D. Hyde and the Key Tones take the stage, their audience absorbs the musical energy, leaving them in an excited state.

This year’s gig at the 25th Biennial Conference on Chemical Education at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., was no different, says Dr. Michael Garoutte, a professor of chemistry at Missouri Southern and a member of the band.

“The first time they played was in 2004 at the biennial conference,” says Garoutte. “In 2006, they put out an email call for musicians interested in joining the band that year at Purdue. We hung out for several days practicing in one of the member’s basement. They didn’t know me at that point, but they tried me out on a song that first year – ‘Runaway’ by Del Shannon.”

This year, Garoutte – who returns from sabbatical this fall – took lead vocals on three songs during the concert held in the student center ballroom overlooking the football stadium.

“I sang lead on ‘867-5309/Jenny,’ David Bowie’s ‘Suffragette City’ and Robert Palmer’s ‘Bad Case of Loving You,’” he says. “I also sang backup vocals on others.”

The group – which takes its name from the organic compounds aldehyde and ketones – started out covering Motown and ‘80s hits. The setlist has evolved since then, though their formula remains the same.

“We usually show up for the conference one day in advance and we get in about 500 minutes of practice time before the show on Wednesday,” says Garoutte. “At this conference, we probably had about 10 different vocalists, a horn section … there were three drummers, but only one bass guitar player.”

The biennial conference is one of the best available for chemistry educators, especially at the college level, he says. This year’s event drew nearly 1,600 attendees from around the country and abroad. The performance by Al D. Hyde and the Keytones is always a highlight.

“We have matching shirts and have become known within this core group of chemistry educators,” he says. “At the last conference, two of the chemistry education research groups organized a dance-off. It’s always pretty impressive when it comes together.”