APPLETON, Wis.— If this is what fifth place looks like … well, where do we sign up?

Lawrence University music professor John Holiday, after a nationwide audience vote Monday night, finished in fifth place on NBC’s “The Voice” on Tuesday. But while John said the other four finalists have left town, he’s still hanging around Los Angeles.

And not to sightsee. People want to see him. Important people. The kind of people who can change your life.

“It is happening right now,’’ said the 35-year-old Texas native in a phone interview Thursday.

“It” is opportunities, the kind usually reserved for those who win. But Thursday, the fifth-place finisher was scheduled to meet with writers and producers who have reached out to him, and put into motion an album project he said will likely be released this spring.


“I’m telling you, right now, there are huge, huge, huge names associated with me right now, working on this project,’’ he said. “Names of people who I am meeting today in the music industry who are in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, who have won multiple Grammys and they are wanting to produce my project and write for me.

“Producers and writers who have worked with Celine Dion, worked with Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, written for Celine Dion, John Legend, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Stevie Wonder; these are people wanting to work with me. And we will work together. So this is a project I’m getting ready to start and it’s going to pretty damn amazing!”

But before that, he will do a project with Opera Philadelphia, followed by a short film, before returning to Los Angeles to work on his album.

So, yeah, winning isn’t everything.

In the “Timing is Every Thing” category, the question is: Which Lawrence University professor, who just made himself a nationwide household name, is up for tenure?

Yes, it is John Holiday and no, despite his new-found fame and opportunities, he doesn’t plan on leaving Lawrence to chase his dreams full time.

If this sounds just a little odd to you, remember, it’s 2020. More importantly, it’s not who John Holiday is.

This is a professor who while performing in Los Angeles, would get out of bed at the crack of dawn and get on Zoom to ensure all of his Lawrence lessons were done. And before that, when he’d fly off to New York City, he’d be up late at night, on Zoom, doing lessons with his students. This is a guy, who after his jaw-dropping blind audition qualified him for the Overnight Sensation Hall of Fame, immediately got on a Zoom call with his Lawrence students to answer all their questions.

“Then, after the students, he went to his phone and started answering questions from all of these famous people from around the world calling him to congratulate him,’’ said Brian Pertl, the dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music who was at Holiday’s house the night of his “The Voice” debut. 


“His passion for his students is just remarkable, and you might not expect that for a guy who is on “The Voice.”

But as far as John is concerned, it’s like naming your favorite child. He can’t do it. He loves teaching and performing equally.

“My plan has always been, as much as I sing, to teach,’’ he said. “Because I think it’s important to do that. I think it’s an important way of giving back. I’ve never had to teach, I want to teach. It’s always been my love. I love it, I love singers and I love to teach singing, and that’s my way of giving back. So my prayer is I continue to be (at Lawrence). Unless there is something else out there that I don’t know about, I will be there. And I will continue to teach.

“I love Lawrence and Lawrence has given me such an opportunity to share my gifts of teaching and singing with my students, and the entire Lawrence community and the entire Appleton community and the Fox Valley. So, I’m just happy to be part of that community. I feel so loved. So, yes, I will be back at Lawrence as far as I know.”

Lawrence’s most famous employee almost never became a Lawrence employee. 

John Holiday (NBC Universal)

When he applied for an open position in the music conservatory, the school was looking for someone with a baritone or soprano voice. John was a countertenor.

But then Brian Pertl put in the tape.

“All of a sudden, we have this applicant who is neither of those but his audition was mind-blowing,’’ he said. “We were like; we’ve got to look at this guy. He came to campus and when he gave his recital on campus the recital hall was full of people observing, and by the time he was done we were basically all in tears. And I thought, ‘Boy, that has never happened before in all the times I’ve been doing this.’”

John didn’t know it at the time, but his voice, his talents, mattered to people. And that reality was brought home during his six-month experience with “The Voice.”

His social media accounts look they’ve been sprinkled with Miracle-Gro. A close friend who works at a music club in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico asked those in attendance for a shutout for John before he left to join him in Los Angeles for the finals, and the place erupted. He is being recognized on the street, because his voice, his persona, his compassion – John Holiday -  touched the hearts of so many.

“It’s beautiful to know people care about me,’’ he said. “I didn’t know my work mattered. It mattered to me. I wanted to share. But I didn’t know it mattered to people, and to know it mattered to people is such a beautiful thing for me. So I was so happy I was able to share.”

John’s success on “The Voice” is also enabling Lawrence to share in a way it never thought possible.

“Here we are, this amazing conservatory, but we’re up in the middle of Wisconsin and a lot of people, especially on the coasts, don’t know about us,’’ said Pertl, “And (people) don’t know we’re one of the leading conservatories in the country.

“For John to be out there with 7 million viewers every night watching him, we’re really excited to see how many people take a look at Lawrence who might not have before.”
John Holiday and Lawrence University; it’s been a win-win relationship for so many reasons.

This is what fifth place looks like. It looks like Fifth Avenue.