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Three years after getting eliminated on ‘The Voice,’ a Westfield singer makes a perfect-score comeback

With a Berklee degree and a lot more experience, Madison Curbelo wowed John Legend & co. this time around. Her next appearance on the show is coming up.

Madison Curbelo of Wesfield during her blind audition for "The Voice" season 25.Casey Durkin/NBC

Three years ago, Blake Shelton gave Westfield’s Madison Curbelo life-changing advice.

After the then-18-year-old covered McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” on NBC’s “The Voice,” and failed to advance to the next round, “Blake Shelton told me to sing everywhere I could and get as much experience as I could,” Curbelo, now 22, recalled in a recent phone interview.

“That’s exactly what I did.”

She graduated from Berklee College of Music, and gigged “anywhere I could” in Western Mass., from restaurants to ice cream shops. Armed with a confidence boost from her local fans and a degree from Berklee with a concentration in songwriting and production — the aspiring singer-songwriter gave “The Voice” a second shot, and this time she had ‘em on their feet.


“I wanted to show this new version of myself — this girl that was much more confident,” she told the Globe. “I know who I am. I wanted to show the growth.”

Her new “blind audition” aired March 4. That’s where celebrity coaches — John Legend, Reba McEntire, Chance the Rapper, and pop duo Dan + Shay — face away from the contestant and turn to face the stage if they like what they hear. If more than one coach turns, the contestant chooses which coach they want to work with going forward. Viewers ultimately pick a winner.

Curbleo’s goal: To make Legend turn around. He was the only coach who was also on the show for her first attempt. “I just wanted to be able to show him how much I’ve changed,” she told the Globe.

Legend turned within 17 seconds of Curbelo’s song. Dan + Shay were the next to turn, followed by Chance, then McEntire: a perfect “four-chair” score (Dan + Shay work as one team.)

With her acoustic guitar, Curbelo, (who was 21 when they taped) delivered a bilingual version of “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, the Prince Royce version, she told us: “His version is in English and in Spanish. I wanted the coaches and America to see this new flavor I could add.”


Meanwhile her parents, Elizabeth and Luis Curbelo, watched from the sidelines with host Carson Daly.

After her performance, McEntire asked Curbelo about her singing background. “I was actually on season 20 of The Voice,” she said, causing Legend’s eyebrows to rise.

“Confidence is the biggest thing that’s changed,” she told them.

“I’m keenly aware that I was one of the people who did not turn for you in season 20,” Legend said. “I feel like you’re just ready now. … I heard your smile before I turned around.”

“I’m Puerto Rican, so getting to sing in Spanish is pretty freaking cool,” she said, to audience cheers.

While all coaches saw talent in Curbelo — who is now a private vocal coach and a drama director at her alma mater Westfield High School — nobody recruited harder than Legend and Dan + Shay. All three were eventually on their feet, Legend waving a varsity jacket with “Legend” on the back, the duo waving jerseys.

Curbelo, who returns to the show on Monday, chose Dan + Shay.

Born in 2002, Curbelo grew up in Westfield dreaming of singing on NBC’s “The Voice.”

“I don’t remember a time when ‘The Voice’ wasn’t part of my life,” Curbelo told the Globe. The show premiered in 2011 when Curbelo was 9 — the same year she overcame her stutter and sang “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus at Westfield’s Highland Elementary School talent show.


“I had a pretty bad stutter. I grew up shy because of it,” she said. “I wouldn’t speak out because I was scared my words would jumble together or that I wouldn’t be able to say things. For years, conversations just passed me by.”

Then she found “I could sing without stumbling over anything. It blew my mind. It became my therapy. Whenever I’d have trouble with my words, my mom would say, ‘Just sing it.’ I owe music for my confidence. It changed my life.”

Singing in public for the first time at 9, “I was terrified. But halfway through, everything felt right. Like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing,” she recalls. “My parents got me my first guitar when I was 12. Songwriting opened up a whole new world. Anywhere I could sing, I was the first to sign up.”

At 16, she says, she made it to Hollywood Week on “American Idol,” playing Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry,” though it wasn’t televised.

At 18, she tried for “The Voice” largely “because it was COVID. Everything was shut down. I figured: Why not?”

Looking back on that first attempt, “I feel like a different human. Meeting people at Berklee … just opened up so many different worlds for me,” she said. “I gig all around Western Mass. I frequent The Crest Room in West Springfield. And Mario’s Cafe Ambiance in East Longmeadow. Anywhere I can plug in my little amp.”


Thanks to local shows where Massachusetts fans cheered for her original songs, “I gained confidence. I really owe it to Western Massachusetts. They welcomed me with such love.”

Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurendaley1.