On Cloud Nine
Matt Cloud ’20 sings his way toward a career in music.
STUDENT STORIES | 4 MIN READ
Matt Cloud’s agenda for Aug. 18, 2019, was pretty straightforward: keep calm and hydrate on.
So he hydrated, because that keeps a singer’s voice in good shape. And he stayed calm, because, well, when you are opening for country music star Reba McEntire—it helps.
Cloud ’20, a music business major at Elmhurst, had won a singing competition to earn his opening gig ahead of McEntire’s headlining set at the Illinois State Fair. “When the day came around, I was incredibly nervous but I was incredibly excited at the same time,” he says.
Nevertheless, he seized the moment. Performing for a capacity crowd of about 14,000 people on the grandstand in Springfield, Cloud sang Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good” and Billy Vera’s “At This Moment”—numbers that fit right into his vocal jazz wheelhouse.
“Actually getting on the stage and getting to perform up close and personal with the crowd was an amazing thing for me,” he says, “and was definitely a dream come true.”
Cloud realized that dream by working hard at his craft and believing in himself. But he says it also helped that Elmhurst University’s music program has prepared him for big stages and big performances—just like the one he gave in the state capital.
The Road to Reba
Now back on campus, Cloud keeps busy with classes, vocal performing groups and his responsibilities as president of Elmhurst’s chapter of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.
From the beginning of his first year, Cloud threw himself into the University’s music scene. He joined the Concert Choir, Chamber Choir and the vocal jazz group Late Night Blues. He also won the school-wide talent competition EC on the Rise in his sophomore year with his rendition of “I’ve Got the World on a String.” Meanwhile, in addition to studying music business, he is pursuing a minor in music production.
Two years ago, his mom saw an article about a summertime, statewide karaoke competition that sent the winner to the Illinois State Fair. Cloud made it to the finals but didn’t win. (The lucky winner, he notes, got to open for Elmhurst alum Brett Eldredge.)
In the summer of 2019, Cloud took first place—and then took the stage.
“That’s always been my goal, is to pursue jazz in that fashion, like Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble,” Cloud says.
Growing up in Tolono, Ill., he says he didn’t have a lot of exposure to the genre. “It was something I found on my own. I had teachers in high school say, ‘Well, if this is what you want to pursue, then Elmhurst College is definitely the track for you.’”
Behind the Music
Cloud’s interest in the business side of music grew naturally out of his love for singing. But it was during his sophomore year of high school that a reality TV juggernaut really opened his eyes to what was possible.
Like millions of others, he enjoyed watching singing competition The Voice on NBC. Unlike most of those viewers, however, Cloud believed he could make it on the show.
With his parents’ encouragement, he made the trip to an open call in Chicago to audition. And audition. And audition some more. His talent and his vocal jazz stylings eventually took him all the way to Los Angeles to perform in front of the show’s executive producers.
Then, he got the call. The producers picked him to sing on camera for the show’s judges. “So I got my 15 seconds of airtime on NBC, which was pretty cool,” he says with a laugh.
He didn’t get to move on in the contest, but Cloud did get a months-long, insider’s look at how a music powerhouse operates.
That audition process and his subsequent education at Elmhurst have given him an invaluable perspective—the kind most college-age job seekers don’t have—as he searches for internships and a career.
“My main goal has always been to perform, so having this opportunity to open up for Reba was a really big thing for me,” Cloud says. “You know, I don’t expect my next thing to be a 14,000-person gig, but I’m willing to take the steps to get to where that could be consistent, or where I could open more for bigger acts.
“And if I couldn’t perform for a living, then I could still be involved in the music industry. I’m still very interested in working in sound engineering and studio work and music label work, and even casting work.”
At this moment, his options are wide open.