ST. CHARLES – Jeffery Austin had his first experience Wednesday being mobbed by fans.
Students at Haines Middle School crowded the 24-year-old singer in the hopes of getting an autograph and a photo while he visited classes.
“You may not be a national star yet, but you’re a star to them,” Austin said. “It was so fun to be able to make them happy; they were all really excited.”
Austin, who graduated in 2009 from St. Charles North High School, is a contestant on “The Voice” singing competition currently airing every Monday and Tuesday on NBC.
Austin – whose real last name is McClelland – will compete against 47 other hopefuls for a chance to win a recording contract.
On Monday, Austin’s debut aired with his rendition of the Sam Smith song “Lay Me Down.” He ended up on No Doubt singer and “The Voice” Coach Gwen Stefani’s team. Fellow coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton later expressed regret for not turning their chairs around during his blind audition.
Austin said he hadn’t performed on a big stage since 2009, when he was in high school. He first learned the keys on the piano from one of his grandmothers, Sonnie Brommel.
Before Austin’s father died of complications from an enlarged heart when Austin was 9, he would sing songs with his son that Austin’s other grandmother Nancy McClelland, taught him.
Austin performed in the school plays, musicals and was a member of the St. Charles North High School Chorale.
Austin said he has kept in touch with North choral director Dale Morgan and Judy Mastalski, the teacher at Haines who told him to get involved in choir for the first time.
Mastalski wrote in an email that she could not begin to describe how proud she was of Austin.
Austin’s mother, Michele McClelland, also wrote in a separate email about the pride she feels for her son. McClelland, her other son, Casey, and Austin’s grandparents were at Austin’s televised audition.
Austin shifted gears in college and went into public relations, eventually ending up in an agency in New York. He had seen the first season of “The Voice” in 2011 and watched its eighth season intently. When the show held open calls in New York in January, Austin was there.
“I did ‘Lay Me Down’ at my open call, my first song, a capella,” Austin said.
With that, Austin continued on the casting process that led him to the blind audition, which involves contestants singing while the coaches face away from them. If one or more coaches hit their button to turn their chair during a blind audition, the contestant has made it on the show.
“It’s one of the coolest moments of my life,” Austin said of his performance. “I got one chair, but it was definitely the right chair.”
Austin said Stefani is motherly, great to work with and emotionally connected to he and the other members of “Team Gwen.”
After the rest of the blind auditions air this month, the next stage of the competition is called battle rounds. Austin will have to compete against another member on Stefani’s team by singing the same song together in front an audience.
Battle round episodes are expected to start airing the week of Oct. 11, and viewers are encouraged to keep watching the show throughout since Austin’s next air date won’t be revealed in advance.
If Stefani does not pick Austin to move forward, he still has a chance to be picked up by one of the other three coaches.
“The steals are in play ... it will be interesting for everyone to see what happens,” Austin said.
On the web
To see a video of Jeffery Austin performing at Haines Middle School, visit KCChronicle.com.
To follow Jeffery Austin McClelland on Twitter, visit www.twitter.com/jefferyaustin