The pursuit for the true passion of one’s life is seemingly endless. This doesn’t mean that the journey has to be lonely or daunting.
Take it from TikTok and YouTube viral sensation Justin Taller.
If you’ve scrolled through your For You Page (that’s FYP to the Gen Z’s) lately, you may have stumbled upon this charming young singer-slash-vocal coach as he tries to impart a nugget or two of vocal basics. You may have even grown familiar with his blue background plus mic plus pop filter set-up. Better yet, you may have even found yourself humming along to his many covers on YouTube, particularly his most viral mashup of the History of OPM.
This is how Justin Taller shares his love – nay, passion – for music. Indeed, it’s a love that he’s been tirelessly upholding in him since he was a child. If you love music, too, read on for some inspiration.
The ‘altar voice’
Justin fell in love with music and singing the classic Filipino way: through karaoke.
With every 5-peso coin slotted into the big, brazen machine, he found himself more and more drawn into the allure of singing. With every cheer from his loved ones – his lola and aunts and uncles who served as his first ever live audience – during family reunions and gatherings, he found his flame for music further ignited. With every word of encouragement from his mother – pushing him to perform at every opportunity possible and supporting his dream every step of the way, he realized his desire to perform with the gift of his voice.
“She and my father were the first ones to truly believe I had any sort of talent in singing,” Justin shares. He tells of his parents’ pride, and how they helped him take every opportunity to share his gift of singing. One such opportunity was through their local church. “My mother signed me up to be an ‘altar voice’,” he explains, fondly looking back at his childhood. “Or that’s what she thought it was.”
As an altar boy, Justin served faithfully despite it not being what he thought an “altar voice” would be. However, being exposed to many of the preparations that went into mass allowed him a glimpse into one area in particular that truly piqued his interest: the church choir. Here, he learned to appreciate more than just a song’s melody. He learned what “tamang tono” must have meant.
“In a way, I felt that this was God’s way of showing me what I was meant for, even though He didn’t place me there right away,” he recalls.
Sure enough, although Justin’s heart yearned to sing for more audiences, it seemed his path simply diverged from it. Many barangay talent show sign-ups and auditions for national televised contests later on, his destiny for performing in front of an auditorium of strangers seemed to escape him. Still, music continued to find him and willed him to not give up.
The lyre and the guitar
Around this same time, he was still in elementary school. Here, music continued to inspire him. Justin joined the school band where he chose to play the lyre-xylophone. It was here, in this group setting, that he gained his first taste of joining a contest and performing for the public.
“We joined many regional contests and won many of them! The lyre band experience taught me how to play not just the lyre but the piano, too. I realized they were almost the same,” he says. “I turned to the internet to learn more about it myself.”
Come high school, even after leaving his elementary lyre band, Justin had no shortage of musical influences. Apart from still serving as a sakristan, he found joy in jamming with his classmates who would play the guitar during lunch breaks. His horizons further expanded, and he asked his mother to buy him a guitar and enroll him in lessons. Short as this experience was (a mere 3 lessons where he learned all but 4 chords), he turned again to YouTube and taught himself the fundamentals of guitar. “It was hard for me to still sing along though,” he confesses, saying that it took much practice to nail the playing-and-singing skill.
“I never had a proper teacher. I had to learn much of it on my own.”
And learn, he did.
The 5 Justins
Justin was relentless in his pursuit of what he believed would be a meaningful musical career. After winning second place in a singing contest, he joined contest after contest in hopes of bagging another award. It never came. But he persevered.
Even when he dropped his church duties to focus on his studies, his love for music was one he couldn’t let go of.
“I started to record the covers I did initially to listen to myself and see how I sounded,” he shares, emphasizing that though there were many things he quit, recording music was his constant. “I had to learn how to use a digital camera, and how to edit using Windows Movie Maker from scratch.” Justin laughs at the memory and remarks how far he’s come since. “I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of my passion. It was my love for music that pushed me to learn what I now know. Music was the friend I could always count on to uplift me so I invested a lot in it.”
At one major crossroad of his life – him questioning his faith – it was music that led him back to God. “I asked God to make me His instrument after He called me back to Him.” He now writes and sings worship songs for his church, which he considers the greatest use of his talent.
Justin believes that it was because of this utter devotion to his faith coupled with consistent work and an undying love for music that pushed him to where he is now.
“I’m certain it wasn’t a coincidence that my friend introduced me to one of the biggest influences of my music ‘career’.” Pentatonix, the a capella group, inspired Justin to try his hand at doing a cover which featured 5 of his own voices. Thus, the one-man challenge to produce 5 Justins was born. Recording the vocals, recording the instruments, shooting the video, and mixing and mastering the entire thing – Justin persevered and did it all. Once he uploaded his one-man-5-voices cover of the History of OPM on YouTube, the rest was history.
The true purpose
Like anyone creating content circa 2000s, Justin experimented a lot. “Upload lang ako ng upload ng videos,” he remarks, a testament to his relentlessness, even when the views on his Facebook and YouTube videos dwindled. When that happened, he naturally felt discouraged. “Tinamad ako. But then I thought back to my big why. Why was I doing this? For views? No! It’s because I love doing it,” he enthuses. “Because of that love, I’ve never stopped making music and videos. I’m not going to stop now.”
And as though the universe conspired to motivate him and tell him “keep going!”, one comment on one of the videos he uploaded at random pushed him to find his true purpose: “idol, paano ba maging magaling kumanta tulad mo?”
“It dawned on me that many people wanted to learn how to sing, but they couldn’t afford to pay for a proper vocal coach,” he says somberly. “And I know exactly how they feel. I was them.
“Then I suddenly realized, what if I was born not for joining singing contests and song writing competitions, not to perform for live audiences, but to instead spread the love of music further by helping these people who can’t afford music lessons take steps to reach their ultimate goal?”
From uploading song covers for entertainment on YouTube, Justin made it his mission to bring more value to his listeners. He started uploading singing tutorials on then-up-and-coming social platform TikTok. “I wanted people to learn to first appreciate music by answering their questions and kindling a passion for music in them,” he explains. “I then did tutorials on singing techniques, vocal runs, resonance and vibrato, vocal registers, and many other things.”
And if you’ve ever stumbled upon him on your FYP, you’ll know that his content has been quite the hit. “People reacted positively. Most of all they were so thankful for the free resources! They learned it all for FREE!
“Justin Taller of five, ten years ago would be so proud. We never let the noise around us silence the melody within us.”
The end and the beginning
Pursuing one’s dream and true purpose in life can be a challenge and a seeming lifelong uphill battle. But Justin Taller knows that the journey doesn’t have to be a lonely, daunting one. Indeed, the pursuit for purpose may be long and winding, but it’s always worth it.
“I sacrificed. I stayed consistent. I kept my focus, kept a clear mind, and I took action,” Justin says, and he advises the same for any of the youth with a dream. “It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t. I get tired,” he admits, especially with a full time job alongside his passion projects. “But I don’t give up. I rest.”
And just like in music, rests come before the stunning melodies of life.
To watch more of Justin Taller, follow him @JustinJTaller on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.