The public knows John Holiday from The Voice’s 19th season as well as his opera career. But long before that, he was just a little boy growing up in Rosenberg.
“I’ve been singing since I was two years old. My grandmother and my mother often tell me that I sang before I spoke, which I think most babies probably do—they start singing along and don’t even know what they’re singing,” he says.
His mother and grandmother were both primed to recognize this knack, as they were both involved in music. They weren’t the only ones who took a shine to Holiday’s vocals, though. As a second-grader at Travis Elementary School, one of his teachers noticed his gift and further encouraged him to explore music by auditioning for the Fort Bend Boys Choir.
And with that, his journey as a musician launched—one that would also introduce him to the world of opera.
“I often tell people that opera chose me; I didn’t really choose it. I hadn’t really heard opera until I was in the Fort Bend Boys Choir, and I just thought it was choral singing. I didn’t know that we were singing classical,” Holiday recalls.
He also loved opera for its eye-popping costumes. “Anyone who knows me knows I love a good outfit or a good costume. One of the things that I was enamored with in opera was the dresses the women would wear in performances. I was gobsmacked and taken by what they would wear!” he adds.
Holiday’s love for performance, and for opera’s vast array of musical styles, would inspire him to study at some of the best institutions in the nation. He earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Southern Methodist University, a master’s in vocal performance from the University of Cincinnati College–Conservatory of Music, and the Artist Diploma in Opera Studies from The Juilliard School in New York City.
His career rocketed soon thereafter, taking him across the globe. Holiday has performed at world-renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, London’s Barbican Center, and the Philharmonie de Paris. His career highlights have included a tour with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, appearing as the Sorceress in Barrie Kosky’s production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, as Orpheus’ Double in the world premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice at the Los Angeles Opera, as Caesar in Handel’s Julius Caesar in Egypt at Wolf Trap Opera, and singing the title role in Xerxes at the Glimmerglass Festival.
While Holiday had been gaining attention in classical music circles, his appearance on The Voice caused the public’s awareness of him to grow exponentially. However, it was a long time between his initial contact with The Voice and his audition.
“I had been asked probably five years in a row by the casting producers to do the show. I always declined—not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I didn’t have the time. I have been booked back-to-back for the majority of my career, and I consider that a really big blessing in my life,” Holiday explains.
His schedule might have been packed before the pandemic, but COVID-19 changed everything.
“Everything was canceled in the art world during that time, so my window of opportunity opened. The Voice miraculously called me again, asking me if I would audition,” he recalls. “So I went on an audition just like everybody else. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew that I was going to give it my all.”
He ended up making the cut and joining John Legend’s team.
“I loved every minute of it, particularly the challenge of doing things that were different for me. But some of the songs I had listened to growing up,” Holiday reminisces.
He ultimately took fifth place in the competition, but he walked away with a bigger prize. It was on the show’s set that he met fellow contestant DeMario Adams (aka Rio Souma), and the two started dating.
Last month, the couple tied the knot in Houston surrounded by friends and family. Longtime family friend and Houston mayor Sylvester Turner officiated the wedding, which was themed “a celestial dream.”
Reflecting on his marriage and his career’s potential for breaking down social barriers, Holiday is enthusiastic. “I’m proud to be a part of the LGBTQ community, as I feel that one of the things that I try to do in my work is to include everyone. I try to represent all the communities of which I am a member. There are so many challenges that we have in our community, unfortunately. I hope that in my lifetime, I see the eradication of hatred toward our community. I hope that my music and my life have created a conduit in which we can create conversation. I hope that I have been an example of what love looks like, and what walking in your true, authentic self looks like.”
For more on John Holiday, visit johnholiday.com.
This article appears in the August 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.