October 22, 2016

Former Webster student Gabriel Violett successfully auditions for The Voice

In June, Jennifer Stewart stood backstage with her family. She was filled with anticipation as her brother, Gabriel Violett, took the stage to audition in front of four world-renowned musicians: Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys and Blake Shelton.

Violett was about to sing for the blind auditions of the hit NBC show The Voice. Violett’s auditioned aired Sept. 27.

“We were all so confident that someone would turn their chair around,” Stewart, Webster University’s director of student engagement, said.

Chairs did turn after Violett belted out his rendition of Shawn Mendes’ “Treat You Better.” Keys turned within the first ten seconds. Shelton turned his chair around at the very last minute, but in the end Violett chose Keys as his coach.

“Carson [Daly] looks at me and he’s like, ‘that was less than five seconds,’” Stewart said. “There was like this huge sense of relief.”

This was the first time Violett made it to the formal auditions after six other tries. He was also on Broadway, having performed in Spring Awakening in 2008 as Otto. Violett said he remembers how nervous he was on opening night of that show. That was not the case on The Voice.

“I was not actively nervous,” Violett said. “It was really bizarre actually.”

A “blessing in disguise”

Violett was home-schooled during his pre-college years. Stewart said their family loved music and were always singing. She said no one was as talented as Violett was. During that time, he made some friends who went to Cor Jesu Academy, an all-female Catholic high school. That school put out open calls for auditions for their productions, which Violett participated in.

It was through these productions that his passing interest in musicals became a passion. Once college came around, he applied for Webster’s musical theatre program in 2006. He did not get in, but stayed at Webster for a year and planned to try again.

Violett took general education credits, voice lessons and a history of musical theatre course while at Webster. He made some friends, one of them being alumna Edana Dillard, who first met him during move-in weekend.  Dillard and Violett have been friends ever since.

“He is just courageous, he has the best personality and he obviously is gifted with singing and acting,” Dillard said.

Violett tried out again for the musical program, but was rejected. That rejection turned out to be, according to him, a “blessing-in-disguise.” He started attending Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. There, he learned about an open casting call for the Broadway Production of Spring Awakening. He was a fan of the musical.

Now in his sophomore year of college, Violett drove to Chattanooga, Tennessee and auditioned for the musical in early 2008. Afterward, he did not hear back for a few months. He thought all signs pointed to him not getting the role.

“I had just given up hope,” Violett said.

Violett moved to New York for a month with a friend. It was there that he got the phone call that changed his life. He performed in Spring Awakening for nine months until its closing.

“It was above and beyond anything I expected,” Violett said.

Seventh time’s the charm 

After Spring Awakening, Violett was having trouble finding other roles. He worked different jobs to stay financially stable, such as being a delivery boy, an office manager and a onesie model.

In between jobs, Violett was auditioning to get on The Voice. He felt his style of music would work for the show. He did not receive a callback the first time, but kept going. Violett said his experience in New York showed him that he had to keep trying even through rejection.

“At the end of the day, I still knew that I could sing,” Violett said. “I still knew that I was good enough and I knew I owed it to myself to keep pursuing that.”

Violett kept trying. After seven open casting calls, he received a callback. Now, he is on Team Alicia Keys.

Violett chose Keys because, in addition to turning around first, he felt her style was close to what he wanted to be doing. He said the kind and genuine Keys people see on television is the same as the person he has been working with.

“She’s so helpful, nurturing and supportive,” Violett said. “I have nothing but wonderful, wonderful things to say about her.”

Violett and Stewart’s mother, Denise Violett, said she always knew her son had a voice she said was like “butter.” She has pride seeing him succeed, especially after seeing him on Broadway.

“I wish every parent could see their child’s dream come true,” Denise said. “I really believe in doing what you love, and [trying] just confirmed that that’s where he should be.”

Gabriel said his family has helped him get through the rejection to supporting him to the stage he is at now. And no matter what, he has always had that support.

“They have always been the ones to believe in me and tell me I’m good enough and that I deserve more,” Gabriel said. “It gives me the strength and courage to believe in myself.”

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