By GWEN OREL
Autumn Turner was knocked out in the Knockout Rounds in NBC’s “The Voice” on Monday, April 3.
But she isn’t staying down.
The 25-year-old Montclair resident prowled a stage in a red dress as she sang Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” She was competing with 15-year-old Hanna Eyre, who sang Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love.”
Turner’s team captain, Adam Levine, frontman for Maroon 5, chose Eyre, so now Turner is back in Montclair.
But Turner says she is not defeated. While she would have loved to stay in the show,“I put my best foot forward,” she said. “I put my whole self out there. That’s the way the game is played.”
Raised in East Orange, Turner is a 2009 graduate of Lacordaire and a 2014 graduate of Montclair State University. She is a figure skating coach at Codey Arena, in the South Mountain Recreation Complex in West Orange.
Turner said that being on the show was an “amazing experience.”
She had auditioned unsuccessfully for “The Voice” a few times before. This time, she said, she had broken up with her boyfriend just before the audition, and it gave her strength.
“I had an epiphany, where I’ve always been doing for others as opposed to doing for me. I said, ‘I’m just going to be who I am and be myself, follow my dream and be unapologetic about who I am.’ I guess they saw something inside of myself that they didn’t see before.”
During blind auditions, a singer performs with the four judges — Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton — facing the other way. Judges signal they are interested by turning around to watch.
Levine turned around first. His quick turnaround “gave me confidence to keep pushing harder. I didn’t even know Blake had turned for me. I was singing the high note with my eyes closed.”
All four judges turned around for Turner.
BORN WITH A GIFT
Turner began taking figure skating lessons at 3.
Her single mom asked her if she liked to sing and would she like singing lessons.
“I said, ‘Yes of course I do. Everybody in the world knows how to sing.’ Mom explained to me that that’s not the case, you’re just blessed to be around people that can.”
She began taking singing lessons when she was 4 or 5, she said.
When her vocal coach retired, Turner began attending Performers Theatre Workshop, then in Livingston, now in Maplewood. PTW Executive Artistic Director Dean Kravitz, son of Esther and Howard Kravitz, who founded the school in 1984, said that when he first heard Turner sing, “I remember getting chills.”
Kravitz taught her song interpretation, teaching her how to “go for it theatrically, with no holds barred.”
Tia Dionne Hodge not only taught young Turner acting at PTW, she stayed in Turner’s life and still talks to her regularly. Hodge’s daughter Logan calls Turner “Auntie Autumn.” It was Turner who got her daughter hooked on chicken nuggets, Hodge said.
Hodge remembers Turner as “very inquisitive. She wanted to understand. At the same time, she was just a little bit shy.”
At 15, Hodge said, Turner had her life mapped out: “I will get married at 21, at 22 I will have a baby, then go on tour.”
“I laughed in her face,” Hodge said. “She was so mad at me. She has always been a planner. I said Autumn, no. No, no, no, no, no, no. I said to her, ‘You have a gift. You’re extremely special, special to a lot of people. It’s a gift that’s going to be shared.” It wasn’t so much that Turner would never get married as that she needed to have her career, get her degree, while she was young and beautiful, Hodge explained.
Since then, Turner has taught herself to play guitar and finished her degree. “She did all that. My words were true,” Hodge said.
Turner said she’s glad to be home, although she’d have loved to stay on the show longer. She loves Montclair, and intends to perform this summer at Montclair Center Stage, where she performed in 2013. “This is the place to be if you have any type of art bone in your body. You’re always encouraged everywhere you turn. There is not one thing I’d change about this town, except the potholes.”
And though she’s no longer on the show, Turner was in four episodes: not just in montages. “I’m so grateful for the amount of time they played me,” she said. “America was able to hear my story. Maybe it will inspire or empower some other person.”