by Nancy E. McCarthy
Webster musician Jack Rogan sang in his bedroom or for family and friends, but last year, at age 18, his first public appearance was to a much larger audience. Rogan was selected as a contestant on The Voice television program, seen by over 7 million viewers and evaluated by four music megastars: Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Ariana Grande and Blake Shelton. He passed his televised audition and would go on to the next round in the show.
“Before The Voice, music was an outlet,” Rogan says. “To get that validation was really cool.” The experience changed his professional goals: Rogan has decided to pursue a music career. “I really feel God has given me a gift and is asking me to use it more and more.”
All in the Family
Rogan is the fourth of five siblings born to Rick and Kathy Rogan. His father is a regional director for a Christian youth ministry. His mother, a homemaker, home-schooled the children.
Rogan was an active kid and played a variety of sports. As a teenager, he helped his brother Alex restore an old VW bus, which fueled his interest in cars. Rogan later purchased a 1964 Spitfire and restored it with his father. He enjoyed working with his hands and considered pursuing an automotive technology certification in the future.
Music was a constant during Rogan’s childhood and adolescence, an outlet to express and release emotions – especially singing. He mastered several instruments after his older brothers showed Rogan some chords, he taught himself to play guitar, then banjo, ukulele, and piano. He took drum and violin lessons and began writing songs at 14.
The family summered in the Adirondacks, where Rick Rogan ran seasonal camps for teenagers and the Rogan kids helped out. After one weekly camper group left, the staff, interns and volunteers enjoyed a dinner party together before the next group arrived. When Rogan was 12, his father asked him to sing during a party; he picked up his guitar and sang “Honey Jars,” a sorrowful Bryan John Appleby tune. Jaws dropped and adults were moved to tears. “The expressions and reactions on their faces made me realize that this hobby could have the potential to be something more,” says Rogan.
Yet while Rogan didn’t consider music as a professional goal, he did daydream about auditioning for The Voice or American Idol. Then one day he made it happen.
Not familiar with The Voice? Here’s your primer!
This talent show features four competition components: Blind Auditions, Battle Rounds, Knockouts and Live Performances.
During Blind Auditions, the four superstar coaches hear but don’t see the contestants perform. If a coach is impressed, they push a button to select the artist for their team and the coach’s chair rotates to face the artist. If more than one coach pushes the button, the performer gets to choose which coach they want. If no one pushes their button, the contestant is eliminated from the show.
Once teams are set (each coach has 12 singers), the coaches mentor and prepare their team artists for the Battle Rounds. During Battle Rounds, the coaches pit two of their team members against each other; they sing a song together for the other coaches and a studio audience. Only one of the two singers will be chosen to advance to the Knockouts, where those artists will be paired against a teammate again, but each performs individually.
When the Live Performances begin, the remaining contestants compete against each other during live broadcasts. This time the television viewers vote for their favorite artists via an app or website.
Ultimately, one artist is named The Voice and awarded a recording contract.
In 2018, almost 16, Rogan registered online and travelled to Boston for an open call audition for The Voice along with thousands of other hopefuls. He was selected for a callback and later flown to Los Angeles for another audition – but he got cut. In 2019, the show invited him to try again. He got called back and was cut again.
“It was discouraging,” Rogan says. “But looking back, I wasn’t ready. I was terrified [to perform] and not mentally prepared.”
The pandemic eliminated live auditions. In November 2020, the show requested videos from Rogan and finally chose him as a contestant. Six months later, he was in a Los Angeles hotel, quarantined with 90 other contestants in preparation for rehearsing and taping the Season 21 show.
Rogan describes the behind-the-scenes atmosphere between the singers as supportive and positive. The unabashed competitive element of the show stems from the superstar coaches vying to coach the singer who will be named The Voice for that season.
Rogan quickly grew close to many of his fellow contestants. He enjoyed singing and harmonizing at the hotel with sibling trio Girl Named Tom and felt a special bond with country singer and musician Carson Peters, a performer since age 4.
Blind Auditions make or break each contestant. Rogan sang the soulful “House of the Rising Sun” and also played his favorite acoustic guitar – which he “borrowed” from brother Alex and never returned! While he was heart-poundingly nervous, he also felt well prepared. John Legend turned early and Kelly Clarkson quickly followed. Rogan felt relief and joy as he finished the song.
“What got us both was the gravity and beauty of your tone,” said Legend. Rogan chose Legend as his coach.
Peters was among the first to learn Rogan passed, but wasn’t surprised. “He had practiced the song in front of me and others, and we knew he would be just fine,” he says. “His tone is so warm and his range is incredible.”
Rogan paired with Sabrina Diaz for a duet of Taylor Swift’s “Cardigan” in their Battle Round performance. During rehearsals, Legend instilled confidence in Rogan to stretch his vocal range and sing in a higher register, out of his comfort zone. The two singers were encouraged to interpret the lyrics and convey those emotions with their voices.
Their performance was captivating and powerful. With input from the other coaches, Legend had to select just one to advance to the next round. It was a tough choice, but he chose Diaz. “Getting cut was definitely hard at first,” says Rogan, but he soon looked back on the experience positively, grateful for his growth as a musician and a person, and for friendships forged. Girl Named Tom was The Voice winner.
Rogan flew home in July 2021. He was back at Monroe Community College finishing his associate degree when his Battle Round performance was televised in October. Voice viewers included his brother Kyle, also a singer and musician. “His vocal range grew to a place I hadn’t heard from him before,” he says. “It gave me chills to hear him really go for it and knock it out of the park.”
Rogan’s appearance playing a Breedlove guitar also caught the attention of Breedlove Guitars. They offered him an opportunity to be a Breedlove-endorsed artist, and the relationship will provide Rogan another promotional platform for his music. “Every Breedlove is designed to pair with the human voice, and Jack’s voice makes a great guitar sound even better,” says Marketing/Artist Relations Director Robert Beattie.
Locally, Rogan was excited to hear from Elvio Fernandes, the Rochester-based musician and songwriter best known as keyboardist and rhythm guitarist for multi-platinum-selling artist Daughtry (Chris Daughtry was a 2006 American Idol contestant). Fernandes was impressed by Rogan’s Voice performance and reached out to offer advice and help.
While Rogan went from singing in his bedroom to a national stage, to develop his music career going forward, he has to go backward: play local venues, hone solid set lists, develop a following, write great songs and record them professionally.
“I have the confidence that Jack has the tools to do something special,” says Fernandes. “His voice is unique, his approach has an ‘old soul’ vibe and his songwriting instincts are excellent. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the future holds for him.”
Rogan began performing shows at b-side in Fairport and released a recording of “House of the Rising Sun.” He’s just getting started. Follow Rogan’s musical journey on Instagram @jackroganmusic.