Members of the Salisbury University community are proud to cheer on one of their own as she sings her way to stardom on NBC’s singing competition television series “The Voice.”
As she belted out the lyrics to Foreigner's “I Want to Know What Love Is,” SU alumna Toneisha Harris earned her spot on the popular show with the recognition of being wanted by all four judges in her blind audition.
At the start of her audition, Harris explained this was not the result she was expecting. In fact, the main thoughts running through her mind upon entering the stage revolved around nerves and not tripping.
“Man, I was nervous. Believe it or not, I was very nervous stepping on that stage,” Harris said. “Firstly, I was telling myself, ‘Don’t trip,’ and secondly, I was telling myself, ‘You only need one chair.’”
Harris was beyond excited to even have one judge recognize her abilities, but as the chairs began to turn, she was in complete shock.
As the song came to a close, and Harris made eye contact with her loved ones, she really began to take in the moment and the journey that lie ahead of her.
“I just remember the applause happening, and I looked over and saw my family, and I realized this is really happening,” Harris said.
Harris explained that having her family there to see such a monumental moment meant more to her than she could put into words. She emphasized this fact in regard to how music had been something that got her family through some of the hardest times in their lives.
“Music is a driving force for me ... I like to say that music is like breathing to me,” Harris said. “I am music; music is me. It is an intricate part of my life. It’s helped me through some difficult times.”
One of the most difficult of these battles was the pain Harris and her family endured as her son Trent battled with leukemia.
Having planned to go on "The Voice" eight years ago, Harris put those dreams on hold for these more important matters of her family. Harris explained that although during this time she had put a hold on her singing career, she did continue use music to find hope.
During this trying time, Harris wrote a song called "My Superhero" for her son who taught her the true meaning of the word "strength."
“He showed us what strength was. It was the child teaching the parent. And so, now seeing him here and now seeing him fight for my dream, it’s a testament,” Harris said. “It’s a testament of faith and also is a very encouraging sign for me that I can do it. I can achieve it; I can go after it.”
Harris’ son is now cancer-free and attends college, where he just made the dean’s list. Harris acknowledged how proud she is of him and shed light on how grateful she feels to have him alive and healthy.
In regard to how she got where she is today in her music career, Harris shed light on the ways in which SU played a large role in preparing her for stardom.
Harris went in depth on her deep history with SU, going back to before she was a student and to her childhood. Having both of her parents work at the university in her youth, Harris explained that SU was more of a second home to her.
“So, I literally was a baby that grew up on the campus of Salisbury University, which is very near and dear to my heart,” Harris said. “I rode around in the golf carts as a little girl, well before I was even college age. I have some history there that definitely prepared me for the stage that I’m on now.”
In her time at SU, Harris played a role in various theater productions and talent shows. She emphasized how these performances, though small in scale to the audience of “The Voice,” prepared her in numerous ways.
In performing through the platforms SU provided, Harris built up the confidence she needed to seek out bigger opportunities and different types of music.
“It’s prepared me in that that was my first real experience of venturing out beyond my high school graduation as an independent artist doing something other than gospel,” Harris said. “So, it was huge for me to do that, and then to get an overwhelming response from my peers ... It kind of sparked something in me to want to consider to do other genres of music.”
Harris went on to commend the town of Salisbury for the amount of talent that lies within this small town.
To anyone within the town of Salisbury that Harris still considers a home, she shares this piece of advice.
“I would encourage anyone, no matter what age, to just don’t quit,” Harris said. “I would encourage you to keep dreaming, and believe in yourself if nothing else, because the more that you believe in you, the more you are going to try to achieve what you desire.”
Students within the SU community continue to root for Harris in her journey on “The Voice,” for she gives students hope that big dreams do come true. You just need the confidence to go after them.
SU senior and human communications major Lianna Gagliardi expressed her love for the show along with her excitement for a fellow SU student making such strides in the world of music.
Being a singer herself, Gagliardi recognized how much courage it must take to sing not only in front of a large audience, but on national television to be judged.
“It makes me proud to know that a Salisbury alum had the courage to stand up on ‘The Voice’ stage, not only making her family proud, but also her fellow Salisbury community as well,” Gagliardi said. “I wish her the best of luck on this season. She rocks, and I’ll definitely be voting for her.”
SU Public Relations Director and University Spokesperson Jason Rhodes also spoke out on Harris’ success.
Rhodes highlighted how proud both he and the SU community are to have such a talented student body.
“The university is always proud when a former student does well,” Rhodes said. “We wish her the best on 'The Voice' and will be cheering her on as the season continues.”
Tune into “The Voice,” Mondays at 8 p.m. ET to cheer on our fellow SU alumna as she sings her way into fame.
By CAROLINE STREETT
Gull Life editor
Featured photo courtesy of NBC Images.