Tag: NBC

Stunning talent, passion, wisdom guide John Holiday’s journey on “The Voice”

John Holiday found a home three years ago with the Lawrence Conservatory of Music in Appleton. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

As contestants on NBC’s The Voice scrambled to pull together family and friends for virtual watch parties on the show’s opening night, John Holiday had other ideas.

The voice professor in Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music knew he was about to catch lightning in a bottle. He knew the coaches’ response to his performance of Misty was off the charts, and he knew there was a pretty good chance his world was about to explode. He also knew with whom he wanted to share that moment—his students.

The John Holiday Tracker: Follow along on his journey on “The Voice.”

So, as Holiday watched from his Appleton home as John Legend, Kelly Clarkson, and Gwen Stefani all turned their chairs and showered his performance with such overwhelming praise that he became the show’s immediate favorite, 10 of his students, connected by Zoom, hooted and hollered along with him and his husband, Paul, and their two house guests, Brian Pertl and Leila Ramagopal Pertl. They screamed when Legend called Holiday’s voice “otherworldly,” and again when a surprised Clarkson dropped the “I didn’t know you were a dude” line.

“One of the things I wanted to do in doing this show is to show my students what’s possible when you stretch yourself beyond what you think is possible,” said Holiday, an associate professor of music who has been on the Lawrence faculty since 2017. “There are people who dare to dream bigger than themselves; they never stop learning, never stop growing. I wanted to show my students what that looked like.”

In the more than two weeks since his audition aired, much has changed in Holiday’s universe, even though he, like most of us, remains mostly homebound in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. He continues to teach during Lawrence’s Fall Term, but he’s doing so while juggling multiple media requests and a growing social media presence. His path as part of Team Legend, under the guidance of the iconic singer, is still very much a secret, but viewers will begin to see it unfold as the battle rounds begin in the coming days. The show airs Mondays and Tuesdays.

On campus, Holiday has become the frequent focus of conversation, a welcome respite amid the frustrations of a year dominated by COVID-19. In the Conservatory offices and halls, faculty and students have been leading the cheers. Alumni have been reaching out. Even other music schools have been calling with congratulations.

“There is a definite buzz around John’s performance,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory. “Everyone is so excited that the rest of the world is hearing this remarkable voice.”

Holiday, a countertenor with the ability to hit the highest notes, made it to the televised blind auditions in front of the coaches—Clarkson, Legend, Stefani, and Blake Shelton—after being selected from among thousands of hopefuls who went through the open-call audition process. He said he opted to enter the TV fray in part because his busy performance schedule, mostly on opera stages, came to an abrupt stop when the pandemic shut down performances around the world.

The reaction was immediate

Holiday’s phone blew up as soon as his audition aired on Oct. 19. A clip from the show featuring his performance quickly drew more than 500,000 views, and posts on various media sites piled on the praise and dubbed him the favorite to win it all.

Success isn’t necessarily new to Holiday. He has performed on some of the biggest stages in the world, and in 2017 received the Marian Anderson Vocal Award from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Washington National Opera, given to a rising star in the area of opera, oratorio, or recital repertory. He knows his way around applause. But this reaction was different.

“My social media has gone kind of bonkers,” Holiday said. “And that is absolutely something I was not expecting. I didn’t know people were going to receive it that way. In general, I’m a person who doesn’t read reviews. I think even if they’re great, sometimes it can get to a person’s head, and if the reviews are bad, they can make you feel bad. So, I tend to be a person who, generally, if I feel good about what I’ve done, I won’t read anything. I just kind of sit in the moment and reflect on what I felt was good and what I felt needed some work. But from the moment this came on, it was kind of hard to not see the things that were going on.”

Hannah Jones ’22, a voice student from Houston who came to Lawrence in large part because she wanted to work with Holiday, was on that Zoom call, watching with classmates through the two-hour episode in hopes of seeing the man they affectionately call Prof. For an hour and 50 minutes, there was nothing. Until they saw the boots.

“As soon as we heard and saw Prof’s heeled boots, every single square erupted,” Jones said.

The only shriek that was louder came from Holiday himself.

“The one thing that truly made this moment special is the fact that Prof shared this huge moment in his journey with us,” Jones said. “He could have easily shared this unforgettable moment with his close family and friends, but he chose us.”

John Holiday arrives in The Voice spotlight having already performed in some of the world’s most iconic venues. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Building to this moment

That journey Jones speaks of is one that’s been building for Holiday. What heights he reaches via The Voice, and what doors they open, have yet to be revealed. But the transition from rising opera star to a performer who lives in a more mainstream music world is one that’s very much deliberate. Holiday has frequently dabbled in jazz and gospel genres, and he said he’s long felt the urge to wade into more pop-focused opportunities. The pandemic shut-down and the arrival of a new season of The Voice provided the perfect storm.

“There are a lot of people who feel like opera is elitist,” Holiday said. “As an opera singer, I can understand that. But I also believe that it is not elitist. Opera is music that makes you feel things, the same way that Nicki Minaj might make people feel, the same way Smokey Robinson might make someone feel, the same way that Coldplay might make someone feel. Opera has that same ability. So, for me, the reason I also want to cross over is because I’ve always longed to be the bridge between opera and jazz and pop and gospel music.”

The 35-year-old Holiday grew up in Rosenberg, Texas, learning to play the piano and singing in his church choir, all with enthusiastic encouragement from his beloved grandmother, who he calls Big Momma. He would later join the Fort Bend Boys Choir of Texas, giving him his first introduction to classical music.

He held tight to family as he grew up amid frequent bullying. His high voice, now embraced, was often the source of ridicule from others, he said. He was harassed for being gay long before he knew in his heart that he is gay.

“I’m lucky to have my grandmother, Big Momma, in my life,” Holiday said. “She has been my biggest cheerleader.”

She was among the first to tell him that his voice was a gift, not a curse.

He went on to earn a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from Southern Methodist University, a Master of Music in vocal performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and an artist diploma in opera studies from Juilliard School.

He has since performed in operas—in four languages—at some of the most iconic venues in the world, from the Glimmerglass Festival to Carnegie Hall to the Kennedy Center. He’s performed with the Los Angeles Opera, Dallas Opera, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and Phoenix Symphony, among others.

About the time he was awarded the coveted Marian Anderson Vocal Award three years ago, the Washington Post called him “an impressive figure on an opera stage” and the New York Times hailed him as “an exceptional singer with a strong voice, even in its highest range.”

His left turn onto The Voice stage and into more mainstream circles isn’t out of character. He’s not running away from opera, he said. He’s simply drawing new fans to his journey.

“For me, I want to be able to change the narrative across the board and make opera more accessible,” he said. “Also make jazz more accessible because there are people who think jazz is far from opera, but it’s actually not. It’s very close to it.”

Holiday grew up singing gospel music and “hearing all the oldies and goodies.” Opera wasn’t something his family was initially drawn to. It wasn’t until he joined the boys’ choir that he gave much thought to classical music.

“It’s not something that was part of our fabric growing up,” he said.

Now, as he reaches his mid-30s and ponders new challenges, Holiday is looking toward those other musical influences. He understands that the ability to excel across the musical spectrum is a challenge with a high bar. He doesn’t want to shy away from it.

“I know that I am more than one-dimensional,” he said. “I feel like boxes are the death of art. … I want to go outside of the boxes in how people perceive the way I should sing. … For me, just singing opera, it would be inauthentic to who I am. I love opera in every fiber of my being. But I am also more than an opera singer. I am more than jazz. I am more than gospel. I am more than pop. Music is just a part of me. And I want to be able to give that in every single way that I can.”

John Holiday: “It is the most amazing gift to be a teacher and to inspire others.”

Landing at Lawrence

When Lawrence’s Conservatory had an opening in its voice department in 2017, Holiday was immediately intrigued. He had worked a number of times with Lawrence alumni in his opera and symphonic performances. He knew the school’s strong reputation was legit. And he had gotten a taste of teaching while working with the Ithaca College School of Music.

A chance to teach at Lawrence while still juggling a busy performance schedule was the dream, Holiday said.

It didn’t take long, Pertl said, for that interest to be mutual.

“John’s material immediately stood out,” he said. “The video samples he submitted were stunning, so we were very excited about his application. When he came to campus, he sealed the deal. His live recital was so moving that most of us in the audience were in tears, and the wisdom, connection, and compassion he demonstrated in his teaching made him the perfect fit.”

Three years later, Holiday continues to mesh seamlessly within the talent-filled Conservatory. From the start, he was often on the road due to his performance schedule, but he quickly grew adept at doing voice lessons remotely, connecting with students from back stages or studio locations or hotel rooms. It’s a skill set that other faculty members tapped into in the spring when the pandemic sent students home for Spring Term and all classes and lessons went remote.

Read more: John Holiday loves to recruit talented students to Lawrence

Holiday also serves as a de facto recruiter for the Conservatory while on the road, visiting high schools, particularly those that cater to the arts, whenever he can.

Jones, the third-year Lawrence student from Houston, said she first considered Lawrence after meeting Holiday her senior year when he visited her Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

“He came to my school to do a masterclass with some of the students,” Jones said. “At the end of the masterclass, Prof sat down at the piano and sang a Negro spiritual, Over My Head, I Hear Music in the Air. I went up to him after the masterclass ended to express how amazed I was, and then he started speaking life into me and dismantling the unspoken doubts I had in my mind at the time. I remember bawling in the restroom and making the decision to go wherever Prof was. Prof is the reason why I am at Lawrence.”

Holiday doesn’t take those words lightly. It’s building that connection with students, making them understand what’s possible, making them believe in themselves, that gives him his greatest joy, he said. Allowing them to now see him being coached while competing on The Voice is one more piece to that puzzle. The teacher has become the student.

“I am not a coach, I am a teacher,” Holiday said. “And a teacher is someone who is teaching the science of the vocal anatomy. … How to breathe, how to stand, what it means to have good posture, what it means to have good vocal health, and how to navigate the complexities of the vocal apparatus. It is the most amazing gift to be a teacher and to inspire others to be the best of themselves and discover who they are meant to be in the world.

“And what is really beautiful to me is now being able to be in a position to show my students what it looks like for me to be taught and coached on the biggest of levels.”

Jones said she and other students are well aware that they have to share Holiday with the world. That’s always been the case, his performance demands being what they are. It may be even more so now that The Voice is introducing him to a wider audience.

“There have been a few times where we have had to remind Prof to not spread himself too thin,” Jones said. “But Prof’s ability to teach never wavers. We were having Zoom lessons long before the pandemic. … He pushes us to be better versions of ourselves. ‘You are your own competition’ is one of Prof’s signature quotes, and it’s a quote that has changed my life.”

Embracing what’s ahead

Now comes the next step on The Voice, a show that in its 19th season still draws an audience of nearly 8 million viewers. The coaches have established their teams. The battle rounds are set to begin.

For obvious reasons, Holiday can’t reveal what’s ahead. But he can say the experience of working with Legend was spectacular, and the opportunity to get to know and work with the other contestants was a beautiful experience.

He was in Hollywood filming the show earlier this fall, connecting with his students for lessons but unable to reveal where he was or what he was doing.

“I haven’t missed a step,” Holiday said. “All of my students have gotten all of their lessons, and I’ve just enjoyed it. They didn’t know what was going on, and, of course, I couldn’t tell them. I couldn’t tell anyone. My students are used to it. They’re used to me being on the road and teaching from the hotel or teaching from the studio where I’m at. I was teaching from the hotel room where I was staying in Los Angeles. That was an experience in itself, to be experiencing all these wonderful things and then also be teaching my students.”

Now, as the show progresses, he hopes his students will enjoy what they’re seeing—his commitment to the work and the music, even amid obstacles and challenges, his enduring love for Texas and his family, his attachment to Lawrence and his adopted home in Wisconsin, and his never-compromising eye for fashion. And he hopes other viewers looking on, 8 million strong, will share in the joy. After all, this is supposed to be fun.

“We’re living in such a time that can be devoid of hope and joy and peace, and I want to be able to give that with my music in every way,” Holiday said. “I don’t know if I succeed with that but I think that people who really connected with me can feel that. That’s my biggest hope and my biggest prayer.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

The John Holiday Tracker: An inspired run to the finals comes to an end

John Holiday, a professor in the Conservatory of Music, is competing on NBC’s The Voice. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

We’re tracking John Holiday’s journey on The Voice. Get updates and insights here as the Lawrence University associate professor of music competes on NBC’s popular music competition show, now in its ninth year and 19th season.

Dec. 15: End of the line

John Holiday performed one last time on The Voice during Tuesday’s finale before the end came a little short of the podium. Holiday placed fifth in viewer voting that followed Monday’s live finals.

Carter Rubin, a 15-year-old coached by Gwen Stefani, took the title of The Voice.

Holiday, one of five contestants to make it to the live finals, took to the stage with his coach, John Legend, singing Bridge Over Troubled Water as part of the three-hour finale.

Holiday’s students react as he performs in finals: Read here

He thanked Legend for his guidance and said he hoped to work with him again in the future.

“It’s been an incredible journey, and I just want to thank you so much for believing in me, for pushing me to soar, for making me really believe more in myself,” Holiday said. “This has been such an incredible dream, a dream that I just could never have imagined.”

Dec. 14: The finale

John Holiday delivered a stunning performance of Beyonce’s Halo Monday night, the second of two songs he performed in the live finals of NBC’s The Voice.

Whether it was enough to get the Lawrence University voice professor the win will depend on how viewers cast their votes in the hours that followed. Voting closed at 6 this morning and the results will be revealed in the season’s final episode at 7 tonight. Holiday is one of five finalists in the running for the title of The Voice and a recording contract.

Get to know Lawrence’s John Holiday here.

Holiday’s performance of Halo brought more gushing praise from the coaches.

“There’s no one like you,” John Legend said, calling Holiday’s range “an out-of-this-world gift.”

He added: “What a magical voice you have. I’ve never ever seen anyone that does it quite like you.” 

Holiday, on Team Legend, is competing against four other finalists who also performed Monday night. They include DeSz (coached by Kelly Clarkson), Carter Rubin (coached by Gwen Stefani), and Ian Flanigan and Jim Ranger (both coached by Blake Shelton).

Besides Halo, Holiday performed the Justin Tranter-produced Where Do We Go.

“I love that you don’t just want to sing a song, you like a challenge,” Clarkson said of Holiday. “Your range is incredible. … I’ve honest to God never heard anyone like you.”

Win or lose, Holiday thanked Legend for his guidance throughout the process.

The Voice has been a place that has helped me to stretch myself far beyond what I thought was possible,” he said. “Having John as one of my biggest supporters, his belief in me means the world. … He’s given me permission to fly.”

We’ll find out tonight if that flight includes being champion of the 19th season of The Voice.

Dec. 8: To the finals

John Holiday performs during the Dec. 7 Live Top 9 Performances on The Voice. (Photo by Trae Patton/NBC)

The Voice viewers responded strongly to John Holiday’s emotional performance of Fix You on Monday night, voting the Lawrence University voice professor into the finals. Tuesday’s episode revealed the four singers who emerged as top vote-getters on their respective teams, as well as one contestant earning an “instant save” via viewer votes.

Holiday, part of Team Legend, and the four other finalists will now compete next Monday night to see who is named “The Voice” for the 19th season of the NBC reality music competition. The title comes with a recording contract.

Joining Holiday on stage for the Dec. 14 finale will be Desz (Team Kelly), Carter Rubin (Team Gwen), Jim Ranger (Team Blake), and Ian Flanigan (Team Blake), who got the instant save following a sing-off with the other eliminated contestants.

“On cloud 9! I really made it through to #VoiceTop5! Thank you, #Holibaes,” Holiday tweeted following Tuesday’s announcement. He shared a thank you video here.

Holibaes is Holiday’s nickname for his growing legion of fans. They’ll need to be voting in full force come Monday night if they want to take the singer with the “otherworldly voice”—in the words of Team Legend coach John Legend—to the finish line. Monday’s show airs at 7 p.m., with voting open from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Dec. 7: An emotional bid for the finals

John Holiday delivered a gorgeous version of Coldplay’s Fix You on The Voice Monday night, bringing John Legend to tears and giving viewers another great reason to vote him into the finals.

We’ll find out Tuesday night if the Lawrence University voice professor’s performance did the trick. Results of votes from Monday night will be revealed in the episode airing at 7 p.m. on NBC. Five of the nine contestants – one each from the four coaches’ teams and one wild card, will move on to next week’s finals.

Legend, Holiday’s coach on the reality music show, challenged the singer to be a little less perfect on Fix You, to let his voice show some vulnerability. Holiday the teacher embraced the role of student and took Legend’s coaching to heart.

“I mean, I’m crying over here,” Legend said as Holiday finished his performance. “When I talked to John about this song, I said it would mean a lot to us if you just give your emotional best performance and let yourself be not perfect, let yourself just live in the emotion of the song. And we felt it.”

Legend said hearing Holiday sing the song in rehearsals meant a lot to him and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, because of the pain their family has gone through this year. They lost their unborn son during pregnancy in September. Hearing Holiday sing the song on stage brought all the emotions.

Legend wasn’t alone in that. Fellow coach Kelly Clarkson was choked up.

“The last part of that broke me in a way that I had to shut off,” she said.

Dec. 1: Big support from voters

It’s on to the final nine for John Holiday.

Results from the viewer voting that followed the Nov. 30 live performances were released during the Dec. 1 episode. Holiday, the voice professor from Lawrence University, was the top vote-getter among the four remaining contestants on Team Legend. That moves him on to round two of the live performances, set for 7 p.m. Dec. 7.

Holiday tweeted his appreciation to those who voted: “My heart is overflowing with joy,” he shared following Tuesday’s show. “I feel so blessed that your votes put me through to the #VoiceTop9.”

Top vote-getters from each team moved on, as did one from each team saved by the coach. There was then a sing-off for one wild card spot. Those final nine will perform on Dec. 7, setting up a finale on Dec. 14.

Nov. 30: The voting begins

The Live Performances round on NBC’s The Voice kicked off Nov. 30 with John Holiday singing a stunning version of Fly Me to the Moon, a song most often associated with Frank Sinatra.

It was the first of three Monday nights of live performances in Los Angeles as TV viewers vote to narrow the field in the popular reality TV competition.

Holiday, decked out in a white suit with matching hat and glasses, showed up to the playoffs ready to make a statement. He tweeted this just before the show began: “Pulled up to the #TheVoiceLives with a vintage Mustang to match my suit. You gotta coordinate!”

The Los Angeles Times featured Holiday earlier in the day, adding to the growing momentum surrounding the Lawrence University voice professor and opera singer.

If Holiday advances through the first night of voting, you’ll have two more chances to support him. The live rounds will continue at 7 p.m. Dec. 7, and Dec. 14. Each time, viewers will have until 6 a.m. the next day to vote. Up to 10 votes can be cast per individual email in each of the three voting windows.

The direct link to vote can be found here: www.nbc.com/VoiceVote, and The Voice Official App can also be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play (see more information at www.nbc.com/VoiceApp).

Holiday, an associate professor of music in Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music, is among the performers who advanced through the blind auditions, the battle round, and the knockouts to get to the three weeks of playoffs. Up until now, the coaches made the calls. Now the viewers, more than 7 million, get a chance to cast their votes.

Here’s how NBC describes the live shows: Once the Live Performance Shows begin, the top artists will compete each week against each other during a live broadcast. As always, the television audience will vote to save their favorite artists. The artists with the lowest number of votes will be eligible for the Instant Save. These artists will each perform a new song that represents why they should earn the save. America will then have the opportunity to save their favorite performer by voting on The Voice Official App or NBC.com. The singers with the lowest number of votes will be sent home each week. In the end, one will be named “The Voice” and will receive the grand prize of a recording contract.

Nov. 24: The Knockouts

John Holiday has been leaving the coaches on The Voice in disbelief each time he takes the stage. On Tuesday’s episode, the Lawrence University voice professor added Usher, on hand as a Mega Mentor, to the list.

“How is he able to sing this high?” a shocked Usher said as Holiday sang Eric Carmen’s All By Myself during the knockout round of the NBC singing competition. “What did I do wrong in this lifetime to not have this voice?”

John Legend, Holiday’s coach on the show, concurred, choosing Holiday to advance to the live playoffs, which begin next week.

It was the latest win for the Lawrence Conservatory of Music associate professor of music. A countertenor with spectacular range, he took a Celine Dion approach to All By Myself, to the amazement of the panel of coaches.

“John, we’ve never even seen or heard anyone that sounds like you on planet Earth, of 7 billion people,” Legend said. “Every choice you made was well-considered, and beautifully executed.”

Holiday’s knockout win came against Cami Clune, who was then rescued with a steal from Kelly Clarkson.

Here’s what others are saying:

Green Bay Press-Gazette: “John Holiday didn’t just sing Eric Carmen’s All By Myself for his knockout round on The Voice, he sang Celine Dion’s version of Eric Carmen’s All By Myself. Then, just to take things up a notch, as the Appleton countertenor has been known to do, he asked himself how Aretha Franklin might sing Celine Dion’s version of Eric Carmen’s All By Myself. That was the performance he turned in Tuesday night.”

Entertainment Tonight: “John Holiday, a 35-year-old professor of music, has wowed the coaches all season with his otherworldly range and powerful falsetto. John’s song choice is an iconic one: All by Myself, by Eric Carmen, which was made famous when Celine Dion covered it in 1996. He hits every note, and then some—amazing the coaches by nailing the iconic high belt that Celine made a signature of the track.”

Billboard: “His soaring vocals while performing Celine Dion’s All By Myself led to a jaw-dropping reaction from the judges and a standing ovation.”

The Voice continues on Monday.

Nov. 10: The Battles

John Holiday advanced through the battle round following a stirring duet of Stevie Wonder’s Summer Soft with fellow contestant Julia Cooper.

Competing as part of Team Legend, coached by John Legend and with an assist from guest advisor Miguel, Holiday flashed his spectacular range. Legend then chose Holiday to move on, saying: “John is just so remarkable. He’s just one of those talents that don’t come along very often. We haven’t seen someone with his immense gift on this show, and I had to pick him.”

Legend also used his one “save” to keep Cooper’s hopes alive. They both advance to the knockout round.

The episode also showed Holiday on the Lawrence campus and referenced his work as a voice professor in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music. Holiday spoke of his efforts to inspire his students to always reach for more and always be themselves.

“I tell my students this all the dang time,” Holiday said after Legend challenged him to never hold back on what makes him special, referencing his incredible vocal range. “I tell them if they’re different, be more different. What Miguel and John were telling me is just soar, and I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna soar.’”

Legend wasn’t the only one impressed. Here’s what else was being said about Holiday following the Nov. 10 performance:

Gwen Stefani, also a coach on the show: “I have no words for you. I don’t even understand how you’re real.”

The Daily Mail: “John Holiday and Julia Cooper treated viewers of The Voice on Tuesday to one of the best battles in the nine-year history of the NBC singing competition show.”

Yahoo Entertainment: “The episode saved the best for last, with an astounding, standing-ovation-garnering duet that coach John Legend described as ‘musical-expert-level, Ph.D. professor-level.’ (One of the contestants, Team Legend opera singer John Holiday, is an actual music professor, so that made sense.) Legend gave Holiday and Julia Cooper the most difficult song ever performed on The Voice — Stevie Wonder’s Summer Soft, an advanced Songs in the Key of Life vocal workout packed with twists and turns and key changes and unorthodox chords — but he was confident that these prodigies were up for the challenge.”

Billboard: “Team Legend’s John Holiday took on Julia Cooper with a breezy face off to Wonder’s Summer Soft. When Holiday, the countertenor with astonishing range, and Cooper, an Ohio native with a special voice of her own, completed their performance, it was set to the calls of ‘wow’ and ‘oh my gosh’ from the coaching panel.”

Look for more from Holiday when the knockouts begin in two weeks.

Oct. 19: The Blind Auditions

John Holiday, a voice professor in Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music, made a huge impression Monday night as he debuted on NBC’s The Voice, drawing rave reviews from the coaches and lighting up social media.

He gave TV viewers a taste of what Lawrentians have come to know over the last three years – Holiday has incredible talent.

“Your range is just otherworldly,” John Legend, one of the celebrity coaches, told Holiday following his performance of Misty, a song composed in 1954 by jazz pianist and composer Erroll Garner that is most often associated with the great Ella Fitzgerald. “It was one of the best performances I’ve seen and heard on this show.”

The 35-year-old Holiday is competing in the 19th season of the popular music reality show that features four music stars – Legend, Gwen Stefani, Kelly Clarkson, and Blake Shelton – serving as music coaches looking to get their chosen musicians to the finish line.

Legend, Stefani, and Clarkson all sought Holiday for their team during Monday’s blind auditions. Holiday chose Legend, and he’ll now compete during the season as part of Team Legend.

A native of Rosenberg, Texas, who moved to Appleton in 2017 to be part of the Lawrence Conservatory faculty, Holiday is no stranger to the big stage. He has performed around the world, mostly in opera. In 2017, he was named the winner of the Marian Anderson Vocal Award, presented by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Washington National Opera to a young American singer who has achieved initial professional success in the area of opera, oratorio, or recital repertory and who exhibits promise for a significant career.

During Monday’s episode, Holiday said his participation on The Voice is part of an effort to cross over into other genres, to show new range.

“I’m known as an opera singer but I love jazz, I love gospel,” he said. “I want to cross over in a big way, and America has never seen a person that looks like me doing it, not in the mainstream. I think it’s time, especially with what’s going on in the world right now. I’m here to show other little boys that no matter what color they are, you can be and do anything, even in a world that can be so chaotic. My prayer is that I bring them hope that tomorrow will be better.”

Others took notice. Billboard magazine trumpeted: “Some singers have a voice. John Holiday has the voice.” Yahoo Entertainment said: “This flashy crooner’s performance was bold and stupendous and totally memorable; he looked and sounded like a superstar.”

John Holiday talks about his love of teaching, recruiting. Read more here.

John Holiday on The Voice. (Photo courtesy of NBC)

Holiday also flashed his insightful personality in Monday’s episode. He talked about difficulties he had as a child and the love he felt from his family a decade ago when he told them he is gay.

“I was really bullied growing up because I had the high voice,” he said. “Even before I knew it, I was made fun of for being gay. But I’m lucky to have my grandmother, Big Momma, in my life. She has been my biggest cheerleader. On my 25th birthday, I said, ‘Big Momma, I have something to tell you. I’m gay.’ She said, ‘There is nothing in this world that you could do that would make me love you any less than I love you right now.’ I wish that kind of love for everybody because it allowed me to be myself without apology. It freed me and it allowed me to soar. I’m so thankful that I get to be here.”

Besides Holiday, eight other musicians were selected in the opening night of blind auditions to move on. Additional auditions are yet to come.

Stefani told Holiday he has big things ahead of him, and that The Voice will be a vehicle that will showcase his talents for the world.

“Your tone is so different from anything I’ve ever heard,” she said. “It sounds so retro in such a great way. You know who you are and you know what you want to do. It’s really just about having someone to be your cheerleader.”

Now the voice teacher becomes the student under Legend’s tutelage.

“Everything you did was so beautiful,” Legend said. “It was so musical. I would absolutely be thrilled to coach you and welcome you to Team Legend.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu