Toneisha Harris is a Top 5 finalist on NBC’s ‘The Voice’

Toneisha Harris is one of the five finalist on NBC’s “The Voice,” which will broadcast its Season 18 finale this Tuesday night.

From the time she was old enough to begin kindergarten, friends and family knew Toneisha Harris was something special.

“Toneisha came from a musical family,” said longtime family friend Eddie Harmon of Salisbury. “Her mother sings, her aunts sing, they are a local gospel group known as the Veney Gospel Singers, and in fact this year they are celebrating 50 years of singing together.”

But it was more than that. Harris had a voice that set her apart, even among her musical relatives.

“She’s not only a singer, she’s a performer and very professional about it,” Harmon said. Harmon is related to Harris, a cousin once removed, and they’ve each other for most of their lives.

Harris sings, she writes her own lyrics, and she’s self-released two albums already, produced by her brother Brandon Jones, who also writes the tunes that carry her lyrics. Her professionalism and musical talents were carefully nurtured by her mother, along with her singing aunts who are part of the Veney Gospel Group.

“I started singing at the age of 5,” said Harris, “because my mother pushed me to sing. My mother sings. She was and still is my favorite singer and biggest inspiration.”

Harris has always dreamed of a career as a professional singer, and in 2011 she thought her participation in Season 2 of “The Voice” might give her a pathway to that goal. But it wasn’t meant to be. Not yet.

“I was supposed to audition for ‘The Voice’ in 2011,” she said, “but unfortunately, my son was diagnosed with leukemia and he was my priority. I didn’t know if I’d get a second chance.”

She moved to Roswell, Ga., to get her son the medical care he needed, and it paid off. Her son is now a college student, Harmon said, fully recovered.

The experience with her son, however, shifted their lives forever.

“I was angry, hopeless and full of so many questions,” she said. “I took a hiatus from singing for a few years – almost five years – and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever sing again or pursue my dream career.”

But she couldn’t bring herself to completely walk away, and for the last few years she’s eased her way back into singing.

Harris meanwhile held an array of nonmusical jobs, including administrative assistant, office manager and accounting assistant. But when opportunity came knocking a second time, Harris did not hesitate to leave all that behind to pursue her dream again.

Now she’s one of five finalists on “The Voice.” Harmon said it’s the first time the TV competition has had five finalists; the field had been limited to four. Until now.

Harris is now on a glidepath to achieving her dream. Her voice — its power and its range — have been praised by the TV show’s judges on live television.

In a clip posted to the show’s Facebook page, Kelly Clarkson publicly gushes over Harris’s voice and performance, inviting her to join her in Las Vegas in 2021 (despite Harris being a member of Team Shelton, not Team Clarkson) and Harris, visibly emotional, accepts. Blake Shelton, who is her mentor and coach on The Voice, seconded the high praise and said he would sing with her anytime.

Harmon said Shelton has been more than a coach and mentor to Harris.

“He’s introduced his own writers to her,” Harmon said, “He’s really trying to help her take it to the next level.”

Harris grew up performing in churches throughout the Lower Shore area and with her mother’s gospel group, and she performed most recently at the Chipman Cultural Center in Salisbury as part of a fundraiser for the center a few years ago, Harmon said.

Looking back at her life, a professional singing career now seems inevitable.

“Although I started singing at 5 in church,” she said, “I don’t think I really understood singing or that I truly had a voice until my early teen years. I was 12 and wanted to sing in school for my sixth-grade graduation. I was nervous and excited. Once I got through it, I realized this is what I wanted to do in life.”

After returning to performing and expanding her portfolio to include jazz and R&B performances in Georgia, for a time she remained unsure about going after the career she’d always been drawn to.

“The opportunity came around again, here in Atlanta, Georgia,” she said. “I almost passed it up, thinking I was too old at this point.” Harris is 44 years old.

But her son encouraged her to go for it.

“I’m glad I did,” she said. “I will definitely be pursuing a music career after this,” she said. “I’m eagerly waiting for the chance to get back into the studio to start completing my project, and I plan to get back into theater and acting.”

Follow her progress on social media: On Facebook and Twitter, Toneisha Harris and on Instagram, iamtoneishaharris.

The winner of Season 18 of “The Voice” will be revealed during Tuesday’s two-hour finale, beginning at 8 p.m., locally on WRDE-TV.

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