Vocalist Antwaun Stanley, ’11, sang for President Obama at U-M’s 2010 Spring Commencement and with the funk group Vulfpeck on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Before going on tour with Vulfpeck (whose founding members are U-M alumni), Stanley spoke with us about his career. (It was not too difficult to track him down as he worked at the Alumni Association until recently.) Read here about his passion for music from a young age and the exciting path he is traveling.
How did you get started in the professional side of singing?
I’ve been singing since I was 3 years old. The professional sides of it started with my first gig: my great-grandmother’s birthday party. Once I started getting out into the community and performing more, I would get these other opportunities. I would sing at parties, shindigs, churches, conferences, conventions, all around the country. I was part of the 1996 Motown-BET Talent Search, and out of around 20,000 aspiring people, I was one of the 10 finalists.
You also appeared in talent competitions on NBC’s “Queen Latifa Show” in 1999 and later on the syndicated “Showtime at the Apollo.” How did you end up at U-M?
I developed an interest in classical music in high school. I came to college to study music and learn about the voice and how I’m using it, what it can do, what techniques and skills to use. I released my gospel project “I Can Do Anything” in 2006, my sophomore year, and took some time off to pursue music.
Your partnership with Vulfpeck goes back to your college days, right?
I joined a funk band called Groove Spoon, and we had the opportunity to open for President Obama’s commencement speech here. Vulfpeck started as class project in 2011 with some of the members of Groove Spoon. They reached out to me in 2012, and we did a song called “Wait for the Moment” in 2013, and it was one of their biggest songs. We’ve continued doing collaborations to this day.
Antwaun and Vulfpeck performed on “The Late Show” on Nov. 20, 2015
What was it like singing to a national television audience in front of Stephen Colbert?
I was very nervous and I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the staff was really supportive. Stephen Colbert even knew my name. It was really cool to be able to perform on a show where you felt they really cared about the success of not only the show itself, but the success of your performance and showcase. I’m still honored to this day and still can’t believe that it happened.
We will certainly miss having you here (Antwaun worked in the Alumni Relations department for the last four years), but we are all happy you are now going to pursue singing full-time. What does the future hold?
I have a couple of songs with Vulfpeck on their project slated to come out later this year. We’ve been able to attend major festivals and I’ll be joining them for the remainder of the year on some of their tours. We are going to Dublin and London after performing a string of shows in Central Park and around New York. It’s been an amazing ride. I’m also working on a solo project that I hope to release sometime next year.
What is your dream musical collaboration?
Too late for Michael Jackson. Too late for Marvin Gaye. If I could work with Stevie Wonder and an old school funk band like Tower of Power, that would be really amazing. Other cool collabs I’d be interested in: Lianne La Havas, Pharrell, and Chance the Rapper.
Any advice for our readers?
I encourage anybody: Whatever dream you have, at least make an attempt to pursue it.
Update (Sept. 21, 2016): Antwaun and Vulfpeck completed their European tour over this past weekend. For a recap and great performance videos, check out LiveForTheMusic.com’s write-up.
Gregory Lucas-Myers is assistant editor of Michigan Alumnus magazine.