FREDERICK, Md. - At age 5, Brian Scartocci wanted to be just like Elvis Presley, but as he grew older, Scartocci says he fell in love with soul music, baptizing himself in the smooth tones of rhythm and blues artists such as David Ruffin.
Now, at 26, his passion has led Scartocci to television, where he is competing on NBC's music talent show "The Voice." His first appearance aired Sept. 17.
"It was unbelievable," Scartocci said of being onstage in front of celebrity judges Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine.
On the show, which airs at 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, Scartocci is portrayed as a die-hard Texan, but fans in Frederick County know of his local ties. Scartocci graduated from Gov. Thomas Johnson High School in 2004.
"It's nice to see him get a break, `cause he is a really good guy," said Chris Fries, a Frederick resident who remained friends with the singer after he moved away from the area.
Fries said he lived in the same neighborhood as Scartocci. They became friends and eventually joined the same wrestling team. That's when Fries found out about Scartocci's passion for singing. His friend would often sing during workouts, Fries said.
"He was basically my iPod," he said.
Millions of viewers are now hearing Scartocci sing on television _ an unexpected detour on his life journey, Scartocci said.
"I hadn't watched the show," he admitted.
NBC scouts called to see if he would be interested in auditioning, Scartocci said. A friend of his initially took the call.
"He said, `NBC is looking for you, and I think it might be cool,'" Scartocci recalled.
Being scouted by the network meant Scartocci did not have to show up for a cattle call audition that can draw thousands of people to a venue. Instead, his experience was more intimate. The show wanted him after noticing his talent on YouTube, he said.
Months later, he found himself singing Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" in front of celebrity judges.
Contestants on "The Voice" perform for judges who have their back turned to the stage. This allows the judges to focus solely on each contestant's voice. Judges get to see a contestant only if they like what they hear.
Scartocci chose to join Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine's team, even though Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton also wanted a chance to work with him.
"Time to choose me," Levine told Scartocci after his performance on the show.
Contestants choose a judge to work with for a number of weeks and a winner is eventually chosen.
The show features dozens of talented singers who Scartocci describes as "a collection of people just like me."
He expects to appear on the show again this month.
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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