Oneonta Graduate Ryan Quinn on 'The Voice'

Ryan Quinn

Ryan Quinn's amazing journey as a contestant on NBC’s “The Voice” ended April 13 on the live playoff round results show.

After advancing to the top 20, Quinn performed Sam Smith's "I'm Not the Only One" live and received a standing ovation from all four coaches. But, even with tons of support from his SUNY Oneonta and Central New York fans, he did not receive enough votes, or a "save" by coach Christina Aguilera, to advance to the final group of 12.

"Tonight wasn't my ideal outcome, but I'm so grateful for this opportunity! Congratulations to my stupidly talented friends in the Top 12!!" he tweeted after the show.

The 2013 SUNY Oneonta grad became an overnight celebrity after performing “Can’t Find My Way Home” on March 7 in the blind audition phase of the singing competition. Quinn, of Westmoreland, NY, near Utica, got a rare four-chair turn and a standing ovation from coaches Aguilera, Adam Levine,  Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams.

The next day, Quinn was trending on Twitter, talked about on CNN, and charting on iTunes. A week later, the YouTube video of his audition had snagged more than 1.8 million views, and his second performance—a duet with another contestant in the competition’s “battle” round—added to his following, racking up 330,000 views in just two days.

It’s been quite a ride for the music industry/communication studies major who grew up playing drums and piano, but didn’t take himself seriously as a singer until college.

“It’s wild. It’s unbelievable,” he said. ”It exploded after the blinds and that was fantastic. … But I’m still not fully processing it. It’s going to take me a while to fully understand what’s going on.”

Quinn’s passion for performing took root at SUNY Oneonta, where he taught himself to play guitar, studied voice with Music Department Lecturer Colby Thomas, and sang in three campus ensembles: the Hooked on Tonics a cappella group, the Funk Band and the Mothers of Intention Frank Zappa tribute band.

“I couldn’t have grown the way that I did without any of those three pieces,” he said. “They pushed me in such different ways, whether it was singing bass in the a cappella group and then singing Stevie Wonder in the Funk Band, stretching out my vocal range. And always having to be prepared. There were always going to be performances and you always had to be on and take it really seriously and practice. It taught me discipline.”

Ryan Quinn on The Voice

As an RA in Blodgett Hall, Quinn organized open mic nights and could often be found jamming with friends. “I would just kind of leave my door cracked,” he said. “My junior year, my roommate and I played out all the time, so we’d be practicing and sometimes the residents would poke their heads in and come in and sit down. One of them even used to join in with us because he was in a band and would ask me for singing advice. My whole floor was very into music so it worked out beautifully.”

On a whim, Quinn and a few other music industry majors went to New York City and auditioned for “The Voice.” “None of us got a call back or anything, but it was fun just to be with all the singers in one place, thousands of them. And so I kind of gave up the idea.”

After graduation, Quinn got a job as a teacher’s assistant in the music room at The House of the Good Shepherd, a school for kids who have been through traumatic experiences. He loved the work, but was still driven to perform. He came back to Oneonta to play the role of Jesus in an Apollo Music Club production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and began playing solo or duo gigs in the Utica area nearly every weekend. After much encouragement from fans and his parents, he auditioned for Season 10 of “The Voice” in Manhattan last summer, and made it.

Keeping the secret wasn’t easy, and it was a relief when the season began and his blind audition aired. Contestants have “some say” in choosing the audition song, and Quinn said “Can’t Find My Way Home” was a perfect fit.

“My mom asked me to learn that song about five years ago. She’s in love with Steve Winwood so I’ve been listening to him my whole life. And I just felt like it was a really good song to crescendo and build up, and show all the different nuances of singing. I don’t think it’s been done on the show before, so I was hoping that would work in my favor, and I guess it paid off all right.”

And what was it like getting the nod from all four coaches? ”I just wanted one!” Quinn said. “That was all that I cared about. I just wanted someone to turn around, and the fact that I got all four—I didn’t fully process it and I still have not fully processed it. It was totally overwhelming, and then to have them pitch themselves to you? That was unbelievable.”

Quinn said it was a tough choice, but he picked Adam as his coach because “we just connected on a couple of levels that were important to me: musical influences, and he talked about how he had a music teacher who really brought out his potential, and we just got along pretty well. So in the moment, that was my gut decision.”

In the second stage of the competition, Quinn’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” duet advanced him to the “knockout” rounds, which started March 28. Quinn sang Train's "Drops of Jupiter" in a tight competition against another Team Adam contestant. In the end, Levine chose the other contestant and Quinn's Voice journey appeared to be over--until Aguilera saved him with a steal.

Although Quinn's chance to win ended on April 13, he was invited back by Top 4 contestant Alisan Porter to perform Heart's "Straight On" with her on the live finale show. At the end of the show, Porter was crowned the Voice Season 10 champion.

The whole journey was a fantastic experience for Quinn, who is sure he’ll come out of it with some friends for life. “It’s really easy as a musician, and especially as a singer, to watch these singing shows and look at it from a distance and be like, “Oh, I could do that,” or “These people aren’t that good” or “It’s just a reality show.” But this has been one of the coolest experiences of my life, and every single person on the show is deserving of what’s happening to them. It’s so humbling to be around so many talented people at once.”

And if it propels him toward his dream of making a living as a musician, all the better. “Wherever it takes me,” Quinn said, “whatever this can bring me, I’m going to take it and run with it. Because I just want to play music in any way, shape or form.”

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