Crescendo: Sterling resident aims high on “The Voice”
It's a familiar story of a YouTube video gone right.
At James Madison University, Ryan Sill, a Sterling resident and competitor on the popular show “The Voice,” made a music video for the song “Titanium” by French DJ with his school's all-male a capella group, Exit 245.
The video was a hit, with millions of views and positive comments.
But for Sill, one comment became the turning point for his career and life aspirations.
“I get bullied a lot cuz' of my weight and had been having a lot of suicidal thoughts,” the commenter said a year ago. “I listen to this everyday when I wake up, and it gives me hope. Thank u so much :)”
It was then Sill decided he wanted music and singing to become more than just a pastime.
“I saw that comment, and I thought that if this one video can have that [impact] for a person then imagine if I pursued it as a career and did this my entire life,” he said. “And it gave me the feeling that I could impact countless numbers of people in that way and inspire them and motivate them. And so that's why I sing.”
Coming from a musical family, singing has always been a part of Sill's life.
It was an escape.
But it was also a source of tension in his formative years. In middle and high school, he was often bullied for being involved in choir and musicals.
He entered college with an engineering major, seeing it as a lucrative field. He knew he was good at math and science, and his mother came from an engineering family.
It was a logical choice.
But on top of it being a difficult major, his heart wasn't in the work.
He joined Exit 245, where he finally realized what singing meant to him and had his experience with YouTube fame.
With the encouragement of his family and girlfriend, Sill decided to try out for “The Voice” in Philadelphia.
Thousands lined up to get their chance at appearing on the show.
After going to callbacks and making it through the blind auditions, Sill was astounded that he made it.
Now that he's made it through the battle round and first elimination, he's on to the knockout rounds.
“I've made it through that and every step of the way gets more and more crazy, and I feel more and more blessed to have made it this far,” he said.
The show is an opportunity to build a fan base and exposure that will help him reach his ultimate goal.
“I want to inspire as many people as I possibly can to aim high and take risks and always be themselves and be different and never worry about what anyone else thinks about you and follow your heart,” he said. “So I want to build my platform … so I'm able to connect with as many people as possible so I can have that positive impact on their lives.”
Now that he's back in Sterling for a break in filming, he's already moving toward that goal by speaking at local schools, encouraging students to follow their interests.
He came home to a supportive community and a house covered in encouraging signs, courtesy of his mom, who has promoted him in her choir classes and in the local community.
He names his girlfriend of 11 months as another source of comfort and encouragement, acting as an anchor in a time of change.
The two met as a result of the “Titanium” music video when she suggested they have a jam session after seeing the video. He said they hit it off.
But his coach, singer-songwriter Gwen Stefani, has also been a source of inspiration.
“I think the best piece of advice that she has given me hasn't been about my vocals,” he said. “It's been about emoting the message of the lyrics through every song that I sing. Because a song isn't just about hitting all the notes.”