Durham’s Lowell Oakley returns to school where he found his ‘voice’

Durham's Lowell Oakley returns to school where he found his 'voice' (Image 1)

For the first time since his national television debut, 19-year-old Durham crooner Lowell Oakley returned to the school where he found his “voice.”

Oakley, who is a contestant on the eighth season of the hit NBC show “The Voice,” graduated from Durham Academy in 2014 and is now a freshman at Elon University. But long before he was a member of Elon’s all-male a cappella group, Rip Chord, Oakley discovered his voice in a middle school chorus class.

“The middle school chorus teacher said, ‘Look out for this kid,’ ” recalled Oakley’s music teacher at Durham Academy, Mike Meyer.

On Monday, as the show gears up for the second week of Blind Auditions, Oakley returned to Durham Academy for the first time since he appeared on the season premiere of “The Voice.”

Through his experience, Durham Academy upper school director Lee Hark said current students are getting the opportunity to see their own potential. Oakley, himself, was a member of the school’s jazz and rock band, In the Pocket, and a member of the school’s a cappella group, XIV Hours.

“I think they can see that really anybody can achieve these kinds of dreams,” Hark said. “Lowell is a student who didn’t start singing until he was in eighth grade, and it was sort of on a lark that he did that.”

In addition to singing with In the Pocket and XIV Hours, Oakley also acted and played soccer. The dance instructor at Durham Academy, Laci McDonald, recalled the typically reserved Oakley coming to life on stage.

“When he gets on stage, you just know that that is what he’s supposed to do,” McDonald said. “It comes out, and it is so beautiful to watch. I’m so proud of him. I’m so happy he is doing what he’s meant to be doing.”

While visiting the school on Monday, Oakley also picked up some advice from the schools communications team on how to maximize his social media presence, as well as received some words of wisdom from his former teachers.

“I was talking to him earlier today about the opportunity and I was telling him, ‘Just live in the moment. Don’t make too much, don’t think about the future,’ ” his former drama teacher, James Bohanek, said.

“You can’t play the whole game of, ‘Well, it’s my moment. I have to seize it or else something’s going to happen,’ ” Bohanek said. “Just think positively.”

Meyer said Oakley is a complete package and thinks he has what it takes to go far in the competition.

“I think he definitely has got what it takes,” Meyer said. “He was a huge fish in our little pond at Durham Academy, but I can’t wait to see what he does here, and blow up on a national stage.”

In addition to singing with In the Pocket and XIV Hours, Oakley also acted and played soccer. The dance instructor at Durham Academy, Laci McDonald, said Oakley is typically a reserved person, but he comes to life on stage.

“When he gets on stage, you just know that that is what he’s supposed to do,” McDonald said. “It comes out, and it is so beautiful to watch. I’m so proud of him. I’m so happy he is doing what he’s meant to be doing.”

Both coaches Adam Levine and Pharrell Williams turned their chairs for Oakley as he performed he Ink Spots’ 1943 hit “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” Ultimately, though, he would choose to join Williams’ team.

Oakley’s journey on the show continues in the Battle Rounds, when his coach pairs him up for a head-to-head vocal brawl with one of his teammates. The Battle Rounds will air March, 16, 17, 23 and 24.

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