Garry Blankenship is a bus driver by night and a singer and musician by day. He recently auditioned for The Voice. He is a familiar face to riders of the Gray Line shuttle route, which he drives Sunday through Thursday.
How long have you worked at Wake Forest and what do you enjoy most about working here?
After Feb. 26 this year, I will have worked 11 years, full-time. I worked here for two years part-time before that. I came to Wake Forest in March of 2004 after I retired from working 30 years for Forsyth County Emergency Services with Fire and EMS.
What do you enjoy most about working here?
I really enjoy my interactions with the students on campus. Ever since I’ve come, I’ve had a good rapport with all of the kids and I entertain them, I think.
What is the funniest or most interesting thing that you have seen as a shuttle driver?
I had a guy go to sleep one night on me. I drove all the way down to the garage and didn’t realize that he was asleep. He wasn’t intoxicated or anything, he just wanted to sleep. He woke up when I backed up to park and he asked where he was and I told him that I didn’t know he was still riding on the shuttle. I guess that was a good credit to my driving because he slept through the entire route.
How did you become interested in music and singing?
I was in a band starting in the third grade and played throughout high school, where I was in marching band and concert band. As far as singing, I’ve always sang. I sang in church choirs and I have always had a love for beach music.
I guess I have a gift that God gave me. I have had very little formal vocal training. I just have a good ear for music, I’d guess you could say.
I can also play the trumpet, but I haven’t played that much in the last 20 years — except for just jamming with other people.
Most Friday and Saturday nights I’m in one of the local clubs that is doing karaoke. Through that I met a guy who is the head of Mic Starz radio and I actually have three recordings that are on that nationwide internet radio.
Why did you decide to audition for The Voice?
I had a lot of encouragement from a lot of different people, so I went to the website of The Voice and found out where the auditions were being held. My wife and I decided we would drive out to the one in Memphis, Tenn. on January 23.
What was the audition process like?
When you audition for The Voice, they film you and record you. My audition time was at 7:00 a.m., but it was actually 11:00 a.m. before I actually got to sing for my audition. They take you to these rooms with 10 other people there and you audition in front of NBC producers.
For the audition, you have to prepare two songs of your choice to sing a cappella and then prepare up to three songs off the Billboard Top 100 list, in case you get past the first round. For my a capella songs, I sang “The Jay” and the Americans version of “This Magic Moment.”
For my Billboard Top 100 songs, I had prepared “All of Me” by John Legend, “Lay It All On Me” by Rudimental and Ed Sheeran and “Locked Away” by Adam Levine. But, I didn’t have to end up singing those three songs since I didn’t make it past that first round.
I was the very last one to sing, and as I sang, I was watching the producer’s reaction.
He was bobbing his head, so I thought that must be a good sign. At the end of the audition, though, the producer told us that we had all done well but that none of us had really “pushed his buttons.”
Do you think that you will audition for any other vocal competitions in the future?
If the auditions in the future are closer to Winston-Salem, then I probably will try to go out and audition again. I’ve thought about honing up my skills a little bit and trying to get a voice coach.
The Voice producers told us to keep singing, to not stop and to come back and audition again in the future.
If America’s Got Talent comes to North Carolina for auditions, I may try to audition for that.
What other interests do you have outside of singing and music?
I drive tour buses on the side. I like to fish and I like to ride my motorcycle. Mostly, I just have a deep passion for singing.