Before appearing on NBC’s “The Voice” and landing a mentorship with Miley Cyrus, one contestant walked a different stage for Heritage High School’s class of 2017 graduation.
With an FBI agent for a father and a mother in the corporate world, Ilianna Viramontes recalled bouncing around before settling in Brentwood in sixth grade. She also recalled an upbringing surrounded with music.
“My dad was a drummer in a band, and my grandma had a lot of musical talent,” Viramontes said. “When I was little, I just loved to sing, even if I didn’t think I was good at it.”
She studied music and honed her singing skills through choir and vocal lessons throughout high school, but she always pictured herself as a soloist.
“I’d never really done any solo work except for a showcase here or there,” she said. “Appearing on ‘The Voice’ was the biggest thing I’ve ever done. I was pretty nervous before the audition, but once I was up there, I was just excited and having fun. Waiting was worse.”
“The Voice” is an Emmy award-winning show, formatted with a series of auditions and contests for singers – the prize being a recording contract. The first phase is called the blind auditions, during which the coaches – Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Hudson, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine – sit with their backs turned to the singer and decide whether or not to turn their chair around based on the artist’s voice alone. During Viramontes’ audition, Cyrus and Shelton both turned their chairs, leaving the hopeful singer the choice between the two.
“When you were singing, I did kind of hear some Patsy Cline tunes – maybe Tammy Wynette – and I just want to give a little bit of a twist,” Cyrus said to Viramontes during the blind audition episode, further detailing why she believed the young singer would make a great addition to Team Miley.
Viramontes debated for a moment between the two offers, but ultimately chose Cyrus.
Viramontes said watching those chairs turn around during her performance was an indescribable feeling, but hearing each celebrity talk about her voice was validating.
“Seeing them turn around, it was like, ‘Wow. I’m actually good enough,’” she said. “Hearing your idols tell you all these great things is life changing.”
Since joining Team Miley, Viramontes trained with Cyrus through rounds of coaching in preparation for the battle rounds. In working with the celebrity, Viramontes said she was just as friendly offscreen as she appears before the cameras.
“Working with Miley was awesome,” she said. “She definitely knows what she’s doing – her feedback was helpful. I initially thought she would be different in person than she seemed on TV, but she’s just as happy and nice in person.”
Viramontes appeared this week in the battle rounds and was unfortunately eliminated. But she’s also excited to have been accepted into the Berklee College of Music. She plans to study music therapy and possibly explore ways to help individuals with autism or those suffering from PTSD.
“Music is so powerful,” she said. “It can help people grow or heal.”
The aspiring singer’s experience on “The Voice” taught her to have faith in herself, and she encouraged other hopeful artists to do the same.
“Don’t hold back; do what your heart wants, because that’s what I had to do,” she said. “I wanted to be a solo artist, and I followed my heart and it worked out for me.”
The contestants will continue with the battle rounds next Monday and Tuesday. For more information or to watch an episode, visit https://www.nbc.com/the-voice.