His voice has allowed him to share the stage with Kanye West and Beyoncé, but Jamal Moore has even bigger dreams for his musical career.
Singing wasn’t always the 2008 John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School graduate’s life plan. He had different goals when growing up in Augusta.
“I wanted to be a professional basketball player,” said Moore, who was part of Kirk Franklin’s choir at the June 27 BET Awards.
His mother convinced him he wouldn’t be tall enough for that particular dream, so he shifted his focus.
Music always held an important spot in the Moore household. His father played in a funk band, and Moore learned to play the drums when he was four. His grandmother sang gospel songs throughout the house, and his mother made sure he sang in the church choir.
He also played the violin and was part of the Richmond County strings program.
His older sister, Joya, went to Davidson and her excitement about being at the school spilled over onto him. He applied and was accepted.
At 13, he also became part of teen singing group Creative Impressions with Evelyn Ellis. There he met a lifelong friend, Trey McLaughlin, who is the group’s current director. His love of singing grew.
“In ninth grade, I had to make a choice — play the cello or sing,” he said.
He’d worked under James Dunaway, the choral director at Davidson at the time, and the positive experience made it easy for him to make his decision.
“Singing was what I wanted to do,” he said.
After graduating from Davidson, he attended the prestigious Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York. As a junior, one moment sealed his decision to pursue a career as a singer.
“I was the male soloist in the literary competition,” he said. “The pianist didn’t show up, and I had to perform a cappella.”
He won the competition without the aid of the pianist, and he knew then his career was tied to his voice.
Another pivotal moment came not long after when the Yellow Jackets, the a cappella group at the school, performed in “The Sing-Off.” While the team only made it about halfway through the season, it sparked an idea in other members of the group.
Because they were students, members of the Yellow Jackets couldn’t travel or perform too many gigs without it interfering with their studies. After graduating, Moore and his friend Aaron Sperber joined other singers to form The Exchange, an a cappella group, performing and touring in more than 60 countries over the next five years. The group opened for the Backstreet Boys at one point.
Band members decided they wanted to pursue other paths in 2017, and Moore returned to Augusta for a couple of months.
Sperber headed to Los Angeles and told him there was an extra room in the home he lived in if Moore was interested. In August 2017, Moore headed for the bright lights of Hollywood.
Seven months later, he heard about an audition for an “A-list” star who was looking for backup singers. He sent in several of his YouTube videos and received a call.
“Eighty singers came to the audition. I had no idea who it was for,” he said.
It was only when he opened the paperwork and read the non-disclosure agreement that he realized he was auditioning for Beyoncé.
He went several rounds of auditions, and a few weeks passed before he heard anything. His first break came as a backup singer with Beyoncé at Coachella.
He’s performed with her several times including for her “The Lion King” recording and her “Black is King” project.
“Any time she needs a choir,” he said.
As for West, “he’s a futurist,” Moore said, who added the performer doesn’t see what’s trending now, but looks ahead to what could be. “He’s a visionary.”
West’s concept of singing in the round for his Sunday service was unheard of in churches when he started doing it, Moore said, but now other churches have fallen in line with it.
Moore had planned to come to Augusta in late July to perform a concert for the hometown crowd, but he has had to push the date because he was recently asked to audition to be part of a Los Angeles opera performance in the fall.
Moore studied opera at Eastman and the L.A. Opera is a dream opportunity for him. His audition is July 6.
As he looks ahead on his career, he hopes to launch out in the solo arena.
His range spans multiple musical genres. He’s currently working on a project of Moses Hogan’s spirituals. Anytime he does a project, he taps into Trey McLaughlin’s expertise, he said.
Moore’s covered a variety of songs and uploaded them to YouTube. He’s also begun branching out and writing his own music.
In 2023 and 2024, he’d like to be on the road playing arenas.
To find out more about Moore, visit jamalmoore.com. He uses @singjamalsing for multiple social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.