From American Idol to ESPN

February 19, 2012   ·   3 Comments

by Colleen Wilson

Photo Credit: Stephen Kline

When the basketball season started, Jordan Baird had a choice to make. A long time singer, he had finally broken into the music business, releasing the single “Grateful” with the Jive Records. Then he was offered a walk-on spot on the Mason basketball team. That’s when things got complicated.

Due to conflicts, he was forced to choose between staying with the record label and playing basketball.

“Choosing between music and basketball was a decision I had to take time to make – but it wasn’t a hard one. Playing college basketball is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Baird said. “I got to be on a Division-I team; that’s the kind of thing little kids dream about. I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. I just put my music on pause for a while.”

Being on the team doesn’t mean that he has given up his music entirely. By majoring in music, he’s been able to keep up with his singing, which he plans to pursue after college.

In the minutes leading up to the homecoming game against Old Dominion, Baird had more on his mind than just the game. With more than 9,800 expectant eyes on him, he opened the game with the national anthem to the cheers of the crowd that sang along with him.

Videos uploaded to his YouTube account cover artists ranging from Bruno Mars to Chris Tomlin. He describes his own musical style as a melodic singer-songwriter.

“I’m the kind of guy where if you hand me a guitar and a mic you’ll get some chill laid back music,” Baird said.

He can also see himself putting out a pop, R&B or soul record sometime in the future.

In high school, Baird sang in a choir in front of 13,000 people, but the homecoming game was the largest crowd he has faced solo.

“It’s a really different story when you’re out there alone,” Baird said.

Just months after graduating from high school, Baird auditioned for “American Idol”. He made it to the top 40 in the 2009 season, which Kris Allen ultimately won.

“Simon [Cowell] was really cool. He had good constructive criti­cism. He said no, but he told me if I took it seriously that I could come back and do well,” Baird said.

After the first round of contestants were cut down from 19,000 to 200, Baird made it through and started to take the competition seriously.

“When you go in there, it’s just like a cattle call,” Baird said. “Four people sing, and the it’s like, yes, yes, no, no or whatever the case may be. Then they rip the reins off you and send you home.”

Baird was voted off the show after receiving a yes vote from Paula Abdul and guest judge Kristin Chenoweth, and a no from Cowell and Randy Jackson.

Even though he didn’t make it to Hollywood, Baird took a lot away from his run on “American Idol”.

“Something like that happening right out of high school, it was a blast,” Baird said. “I got to like the fourth or fifth round and the judges were there. It’s like anything really, the experience always benefits you somehow. You can learn from everything. There’s something you can take away from every experience.”

Baird also auditioned for “The X-Factor” this past summer. After submitting a YouTube video of himself singing, Baird was able to skip the first several rounds of the competition.

During the first round, he sang in front of 5,000 people in Seattle. Cowell recognized him on stage and asked him if they had met before. When Baird confirmed that they had, Cowell asked where. “I was like,’Uh, American Idol?’ The crowd went wild. It was hilarious,” Baird said. He did not make it past that round of judging.

Auditioning again for American Idol is one of Baird’s options after he graduates. He has kept in touch with his contacts in the music world and plans to reach out to them again once he is finished with school.

He is also looking into the newer television show “The Voice” with judges Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera.

For his love and talent in both music and basketball, Baird has his parents to thank. His mother sang as a child, a skill Baird and his brother both inherited. His father played basketball in his youth, which was also shared with the two brothers, though Baird is the first in his family to play at the college level.

Baird initially didn’t pursue basketball out of high school after a deal with Shenandoah University fell through. However, he ended up as a walk-on for the Mason team, which he calls a once-in-a -lifetime opportunity.

“We know our place as walk-ons, but just because you know your place doesn’t mean you can’t strive for something more,” Baird said. “I’m always working hard in practice and you never know when they might need us and might put us in, so you just have to keep working hard.”

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