Lawrence University voice professor John Holiday finished his wild ride on NBC’s The Voice Tuesday night, placing fifth in the 19th season of the popular TV singing competition.
Holiday, an associate professor in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music since 2017, showcased a voice that John Legend called “otherworldly” as he advanced through the blind auditions, the battle rounds, the knockouts, the live playoffs, and the live semifinals, where TV viewers cast votes to move him into the Final 5.
On Tuesday’s finale, he was joined on stage by Legend to sing Bridge Over Troubled Water, his final performance during an inspired run.
“It’s been an incredible dream I could never have imagined,” Holiday said of his time on the show.
But the title for Holiday wasn’t to be. Carter Rubin, a 15-year-old coached by Gwen Stefani, was named the winner, based on viewer votes following Monday night’s live finals performances, earning a recording contract in the process.
Late Tuesday, Holiday tweeted: “America, I love you so much! I appreciate every prayer that helped me and my #TheVoice family soar. Congratulations, @carterjrubin! The world is ready for your fierce talents and beautiful spirit. #HoliBaes forever! I love you and I am excited to be on this ride with you.”
Holiday excelled in a competition that began in the spring with thousands of hopefuls and drew an average TV viewership of more than 7 million people during twice-weekly airings over the past two months. The show was conducted without its usual live audience and with social distancing protocols in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flashing a fun sartorial style to match a vocal talent that has made him a rising star in opera circles, the 35-year-old Holiday drew plenty of applause along the way, earning attention in the Los Angeles Times and USA TODAY, hearing effusive praise from the show’s celebrity coaches—Legend, Stefani, Kelly Clarkson, and Blake Shelton—and growing a fan base he calls his Holibaes.
Holiday’s voice students at Lawrence, who affectionately call him Prof, cheered him every step of the way, including through tonight’s finale.
“From day one, Prof has told us that one of the main reasons he pursues his career is to show us what’s possible,” said David Womack ’21, a senior voice student from Austin, Texas. “Watching him quickly become a household name is direct proof that we can do anything we set our minds to, as he frequently reminds us.”
“I love that you continue to show America more of yourself,” Legend told him. “You put your heart out there every single week. You have an out-of-this-world gift.”
Holiday jumped into the competition after the pandemic shut down his performance schedule in the spring. He continued to teach remotely while quietly taking part in the auditions and the early rounds of the show from Los Angeles. The recorded segments—launched with Holiday delivering a stunning performance of Misty that quickly drew Legend to his corner in the blind auditions—began airing in mid-October. Holiday was sworn to secrecy as he advanced through each round as part of Team Legend. He returned to L.A. as the live rounds and viewer voting began two weeks ago.
Sarah Navy ’22, a junior voice student from Holiday’s hometown region of Houston, Texas, said she and her Lawrence classmates already appreciated Holiday’s immense talents. Seeing other viewers discovering not only that talent but also his joyful heart was part of the fun.
“Even though I have spent so much time with him and have heard him sing so much, sometimes I go back to the first time I met him and I become that girl in tears who knew one day she could be great, too,” Navy said. “He is such a genuine person who works so hard and is being a representative for so many people.”
That genuineness shined through all levels of the show, whether Holiday was talking to Legend or host Carson Daly about his teaching at Lawrence, being Black and gay, singing opera, his incredibly high falsetto, growing up in his beloved Texas, his relationship with the grandmother he calls Big Momma, and the pain being felt by artists around the world in the midst of the pandemic.
“He is always so authentic to who he is, which is so inspiring to see,” said Jack Murphy ’21, a senior choral student from Neenah. “And just witnessing the outpouring of love for him. Not only for his talent, but what he stands for as well. It’s encouraging and wonderful. I am so immensely proud of him, and so is our entire studio.”
During his run on The Voice, Holiday became the student under the coaching guidance of Legend. In Monday’s episode, he thanked his mentor for instilling in him confidence that he could shed labels and transcend musical boundaries.
“The Voice has been a place that has helped me to stretch myself far beyond what I thought was possible for me,” Holiday said. “Having John as one of my biggest supporters, his belief in me means the world. … I spent so much of my life hiding, and I won’t ever hide again. He’s given me permission to fly.”
While NBC billed Holiday as a native of Rosenberg, Texas, his home the past three years has been in Appleton. He represented Lawrence well throughout the season, speaking not only to the power of music education but also to the need for musicians to live and perform authentically and with empathy, resiliency, and flexibility.
“We couldn’t be prouder of John Holiday and his incredible journey on The Voice,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory. “John is the perfect example of the flexible, versatile, virtuoso musician that the 21st century needs and Lawrence strives to produce. He is an opera star who can sing jazz and pop at the highest levels. He is a top-tier performer and a top-tier educator who values his students above all else. What an incredible role model for our students and musicians around the globe.”
With The Voice now finished, Holiday will prepare for Winter Term at Lawrence while getting at least a bit of his performance schedule back. Opera Philadelphia announced last week that Holiday will take the lead in Tyshawn Sorey’s Save the Boys in February, to be streamed on the Opera Philadelphia Channel.
Hannah Jones ’22, a junior voice student from Houston, will be among the Conservatory students excited to welcome their professor home, even if it has to be via Zoom for a bit longer.
“Prof always tells us, ‘I want to show you that it is possible,’” Jones said. “Well, he was doing that well before The Voice, but this is another level. Words cannot describe my excitement for Prof’s success.”
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.
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
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!”
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.
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.
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.”