John Holiday has become a fan favorite on NBC’S 19th season of “The Voice” after his soul-stirring rendition of Misty Blue, which helped him secure a three-chair turn by the judges.
Bayou Beat News got a chance to chat with the 35-year-old Texas native, and talked opera, teaching and being a beacon of hope.
“I’m currently a professor of voice and an associate professor of music at the Conservatory of Music at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and this Texas boy is cold,” Holiday laughs while explaining that it is 39 degrees in Wisconsin, which is a vast difference from the 60-degree Texas winters he’s accustomed to.
He has come a long way from the small Texas town where he grew up, and isn’t shy about saying it. He has the ability to immediately make you feel welcomed, which led to an enjoyable 30-minute phone conversation, reminiscent of catching up with a long lost friend.
“The fact that this lil guy from Rosenberg, Texas has turned into this ‘big guy’ on TV, by no means do I think I am the next coming or anything like that, but I do think that I am an example of what is possible when everyone pours their love into a person and nurtures who they are, and what they are supposed to be in the world,” said Holiday.
After discussing our love for Texas and Celine Dion, we shifted the conversation to his impressive musical background.
So why opera?
“Well, I started out as a young guy in the Fort Bend County Boys Choir and I saw Denyce Graves. I had never seen a black opera singer and I became enamored with her,” he answered.
He admits that he didn’t choose opera, but more so, opera chose him.
“I just fell in love with it,” he said. “I never wanted to coast or skate, I wanted to try my best by working hard and doing the best that I could.”
Holiday steadied the course and went from the Boys Choir to the high school choir and started competing and winning UIL and State competitions, eventually becoming the first black drum major at Lamar Consolidated High School.
After graduating high school in 2003, Holiday pursued a degree at Southern Methodist in Dallas and followed that up with a graduate degree from the University of Cincinnati. He then took a short break to teach and went on to receive his Artist Diploma in Opera Studies at Juilliard.
“I took a little break between my undergraduate and graduate school years and I taught choral music at Lamar Junior High School in Rosenberg, Texas, and I was the Assistant Director of Choral Music at Lamar Consolidated High School; both of the schools to which I have matriculated, so it was really special to go back and give something back to the community where I grew up,” he said. “It has always been a part of my life. I’ve always wanted to utilize my platform to give back to the community, especially a community that has helped to nurture me and to give me my voice in a way.”
Holiday also revealed that he was very closed-mouth about teaching and very few people knew.
“Most people didn’t know that I was a teacher because sometimes there is a stigma attached to singers who teach or teachers who sing, he said.” I didn’t want people to think ‘oh he’s singing so he’s no longer teaching’ because that was not the case. I was still singing all over the place.”
With all of these accomplishments, we admitted that it was hard for us to believe that an award-winning singer and music professor would compete on The Voice. We held back at first, but then asked, “So what can John [Legend] teach you that you don’t already know?”
Holiday says the show has taught him a lot about stepping into the authenticity of who he is and the importance of using the full power of his voice.
“This show is a show that’s enabling me to share my light and to share my spirit and being coached by John is one of the most amazing things because he has encouraged me to step more into my power and the uniqueness that is me,” he explained.
We playfully nudged him about selecting John and not Kelly, who is also a Texas native, but Holiday said that it was his strategy going into the show.
“My initial thought prior to coming on the show was that I would pick whoever turned their chair first because that meant that you really liked me. And as it happened, John turned his chair first and then he blocked Kelly,” Holiday said laughing.
As our conversation came to a close, we discussed some of the amazing talents that have been discovered on the show over the years and how prophetic it was that he will now be a part of that legacy, and what that meant to him.
“I want to say that my prayer in my life’s work is that people would know that I am trying my best in all of the ways that one can imagine, to be a beacon of light to people, especially those who have lost their own,” he shared. “All of the love and support that people give to me, I promise that I will give that back on stage.”
Be sure to watch Holiday, alongside his coach, battle it out with the other contestants every Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.