Three Bay area natives featured on NBC's 'The Voice' - WFLA News Channel 8

Three Bay area natives featured on NBC's 'The Voice'

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Sisaundra Lewis, Josh Kaufman and Jake Barker Sisaundra Lewis, Josh Kaufman and Jake Barker

Two intense battle rounds on NBC's The Voice Monday night ended with two Bay area natives advancing on the show. It means three people from our area are still in the running for one of television's highest rated programs.

Josh Kaufman was born in Sarasota. Jake Barker is from Pinellas Park, and Sisaundra Lewis grew up in the small Polk County town of Lake Hamilton.

"I sang in those groves for so many years. It has taken me 26 years to get to this stage," Sisaundra told News Channel 8.

Sisaundra said she lived a very sheltered life as a little girl, watching her sisters sing in church from a pew. At 5 years old, she'd listened enough. She walked up to her father, a bishop in the church right next door to the home she grew up, and told him she wanted to sing because her sisters wouldn't let her in the group.

That Sunday, he called her up before he ministered.

"They don't play in this church. Either you can sing or you can't. If you can't sing, you better sit down," she said as she laughed. "They helped nurture my gift. Thank God they saw it and didn't boo me."

She developed her voice as she worked hours on end in nearby orange groves. Her father made a living as a fruit contractor and she would sing as she worked.

Her community nurtured her gift. She was in band, became drum major and learned to play the drums and, to the trombone, although she says she was always a bit rusty on that one.

After landing gig for a cover band called Spellbound, one of her bandmates, who later became the sound engineer for Peabo Bryson, introduced the two. She started touring and when Celine Dion joined later for duets with Bryson, Sisaundra started working with her.

She took a break from the stage to focus on raising her 3 children, Rasheda, 15, Vincent, 25, and RJ II, 7.

"It's not the glitz and the glamour anymore," Sisaundra said. "It comes along with it, and I love it. But it's really about ... I can take care of my family."

Sisaundra now lives in Orlando. Josh is in Indianapolis. Jake is in New York.

Jake Barker overcame obstacles as well. In fact, The Voice is the first time he's ever been on stage. He only started singing 5 years ago and then put up a YouTube video in 2010.

He works at a bar now in New York City.

"I'm 28 now. It's not or never," he said.

Monday night proved to be a success. In battle rounds, Adam Levine stole him, which means he'll progress on the singer's team. He said the support from back home has been tremendous.

"I almost had tears in my eyes... just overwhelming support," Jake said. "This ... was the scariest thing in the world for me. A lot of my friends back home know this...I've never done it. They've always pushed me to do it. I remember back in high school people tried to get me to sing and I'd make them turn around ... Not even look at me. I was so terrified of anybody seeing it. The thing is, if you have a passion for something and you love something, you can't really let anything hold you back."

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.



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