Bixby Graduate On National Stage
By EMILY RAMSEY
COREY KENT WHITE: Bixby High School graduate Corey Kent White sings “Fried Chicken” at his blind audition to win a place on NBC’s singing competition The Voice.
Bixby High School graduate Corey Kent White has helped to put a spotlight on his hometown with his recent entrance onto this season of NBC’s The Voice as a member of Team Blake Shelton.
Although, this isn’t the first time 20-year-old White has drawn attention for his musical talent.
In 2006, at just 11 years old, White joined Oklahoma Stomp, a country western swing group created by White’s guitar teacher and nationally-acclaimed fiddler Shelby Eicher.
When the group opened for the Oak Ridge Boys, he and his bandmates saw Jim Halsey backstage before a performance. White, about 15 years old at the time, was the only one with enough courage to approach Halsey: “I walked up to him (Halsey) and introduced myself, and he looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘You’re going to be a star one day,’” White recounts. Although, to this day, White does not know exactly why Halsey said that, he assumes it was largely due to his assertiveness, a trait that would continue to benefit White in the years to come.
About a year later, White had his next star encounter. In December 2010, White attended a Willie Nelson concert at the SpiritBank Event Center in Bixby and worked his way onstage to perform with Nelson.
“Willie Nelson is really responsible for me playing music today,” he says.
In 2010, White left Oklahoma Stomp, as many of its members were moving on with other projects: “I had begun writing my own music, but I thought this might be it for me when it came to music. It was a discouraging time for me.”
When it was announced that Nelson was coming to town, White’s uncle and grandfather, who is a diehard Nelson fan, secured front row tickets and as the show neared, encouraged White to get a ticket.
White eventually did buy a ticket, and he swears, “I’m not kidding; I really had a feeling that I would end up on stage that night.” His eagerness to perform kicks in each time he attends a concert, he says. “I wouldn’t say that I’m jealous of the performers on stage, but I always imagine what I would do if I got to be up there.”
So, after arriving at the event center, “I asked someone at the concession stand if they had any markers and cardboard, and I made a sign asking to come on stage.”
About halfway through the show, White took his uncle’s place on the front row, and before long, Nelson could no longer ignore the boy with the sign. “Willie kept throwing bandanas at me to get me to put my sign down because no one could see behind me, but I thought, ‘I got this far, I’m not going to stop now,’” he continues.
After the third bandana was thrown, Nelson asked White what song he wanted to sing.
White replied with “Milk Cow Blues,” a Bob Wills song from 1946 – a song choice White doesn’t think that Nelson was expecting. “Willie’s a big Bob Wills fan, and I knew that his band had played that song before.”
That experience was all that White needed to keep him chasing his dream. A week later, he visited Halsey’s office in Tulsa. Halsey hired him first as an intern, working with audio and video software but, later, became his manager. With Halsey’s encouragement, White took summer classes to graduate from Bixby High School a year early. White then spent what would have been his senior year of high school writing songs for Grammy-winning artists, including Jason Aldean and Eric Church, and performing in Nashville, returning to Bixby for short times throughout the year “when my money ran out,” he laughs.
After that year, White’s parents encouraged him to go to college. So he moved to Stillwater and began attending Oklahoma State University, all the while performing with his band locally and beyond Oklahoma as his reputation grew.
His degree in business management was put on hold this year when he earned a place on The Voice.
White had never planned to try out for a television singing competition. “I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my country music heroes, playing the college scene and bars and getting so good that you can’t be ignored anymore,” he says.
However, after White received an email from show producers asking him to try out, “I felt like it would be foolish to turn the opportunity down.”
White then went through a series of interviews and try-outs before finally earning the opportunity to perform a blind audition in front of the show’s four superstar coaches: Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, singer Christina Aguilera, music producer and singer Pharrell Williams, and country musician and Oklahoma-native Blake Shelton.
The audition aired March 3.
Williams and Shelton both turned their chairs for White during his performance of Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried,” but Shelton ultimately prevailed as White’s coach.
Even though White’s time on The Voice has not been long, he already knows he has greatly benefitted from the show’s national platform, the caliber of the contestants and, of course, the guidance of the internationally-famed coaches. “With Blake, he’s helped to push me past my comfort zone,” he says. “I never thought this show would focus so much on the personal growth of an artist. Anyone who’s been on the show would tell you they’re a better artist after being on this show.”
Reflecting on White’s success thus far, his mother, Donna Brollier, who owns Donna’s Fashions in South Tulsa, saw White’s musical abilities early on and encouraged them.
“Corey did all kinds of activities growing up, but his gift kept leaning toward music, and his passion for music kept increasing over the years,” she says.
“We just wanted to encourage him to do whatever his dream was.”
From the looks of it, that was encouragement worth giving.
As of March 19, the date of this publication’s printing, White had progressed through his first elimination round, performing in the battle rounds against fellow Team Blake member Jacob Rummell.