Colleen and David Burroughs’ living room near Liberty Park was packed on Sunday, March 3 with their son Walker’s family, high school friends, church friends and friends from Belmont University as he played Ben Folds’ “Love Like This”—plus an impromptu bit of a Lionel Richie song he’d listened to with his mom growing up—on his American Idol audition on ABC. Immediately the judges were telling him he was “top 10 material” and had a “super pro vibe.” “Watching it with them has been motivation to get through difficult to get through harder parts of this,” he told us. Here’s what the 2017 VHHS graduate and Belmont music education major had to say about the experience.

How did you first get into music?

I took piano lessons, and I started playing guitar in third grade. My first performance was the Jason Mraz song “I am Yours” at my parents’ summer camp Passport’s talent show, and I played at talent shows and church events growing up. My elementary school music teacher at Liberty Park Ms. August pushed my sister and me into music before anyone else did. The VHHS high school band director Mr. Horton has been a wonderful mentor in my life; he’s the reason I am going down the life path I am because I want to be a teacher like him. The opportunities my choir directors presented to me were great too.

What was the American Idol audition experience like?

I never thought I would do a show like this until some friends gave me the idea. The audition was super terrifying. I saw everyone in the holding room and was intimidated by everyone. I have equated self-confidence with arrogance my whole life, so I have a hard time having self confidence in my musical skills sometimes. But I wasn’t super nervous when I started singing. Katy Perry said I was Top 10 material, which is a very bold statement. I was genuinely surprised by the positive feedback especially since I had convinced myself I would be one the worst people there that day.

What stands out most from your musical experience at VHHS?

What I loved the most was being in the a cappella group Just Singin’ and singing “Hallelujah” on the video that went viral. I found this room off the side of the stairwell with good acoustics, and after a concert we got our close friends and family to get in there and sang the song. We were all sobbing by the end of the song. That’s one of my favorite memories I have had musically.

Have you always wanted to be on American Idol?

When I was a kid watching the show I wanted to be on American Idol and become a super star. Then I got passionate about being a choir director when I was drum major in high school. I thought it was irrational to be the next Shawn Mendez. But now this show is helping me be able to find a language of confidence in myself and my skills and to say, “I am a good singer and I am proud of what I have done to accomplish that.” I don’t know where my opportunities will lead from this show, but I might want to pursue a music career. More than anything it’s an opportunity to be a good male role model for young guys who don’t want to fit into a box of super masculinity; I wish I had had someone like that to look up to when I was younger.

What music might we find you listening to or playing?

I don’t listen to what I play and write. What I listen to is movie soundtracks and jazz music, mostly modern jazz and pop jazz, all things I want to emulate in my writing. I played pop music and sometimes jazz-influenced pop. You might hear some Stevie Wonder, you might hear some jazzed-up versions of some Top 40 pop songs, maybe some Elton John. In high school I sang Jonas Brothers because I know girls would like it.