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Peter Hollens

University of Oregon, 2015

There’s an infinite number of possibilities for you to create for yourself with no one to stop you but your own inertia.

Faculty, parents, friends, members of the graduating class of two thousand fifteen: I am honored to be here with you today. I wasn’t able to attend my own UO graduation because of a family illness, so being here with you is the next best way to experience graduating as a Duck.

I am here to tell you my story, and let you know that the possibilities for you in this world are as limitless as your imagination allows them to be. My hope is you will all leave here, inspired and ready to take on the world. That you’ll choose to pay attention to that impulse you thought was impossible, or too ambitious... and go after it with every fiber of your being...…. But, OF COURSE, I have learned, AS YOU WILL, that dreams have to be accompanied by an unbelievable amount of work and follow through.

So a little about me….

I consider Eugene and the University of Oregon my home. I grew up in the small town of Ashland, Oregon an awkward, dorky kid that everyone picked on. I was an introvert, I struggled to keep friends, and to keep up with school work. Once you’re labeled an outcast in a small town, it has a way of sticking with you until you finally FIND A WAY TO leave it BEHIND.

The University of Oregon gave me the fresh start that I desperately needed. It is where I found multiple loves in my life. I found my wife, Evynne Hollens AS SHE WAS singing at the EMU amphitheater with her WOMEN’S A CAPPELLA GROUP, Divisi.

She’s the cute one right there in front.

I also developed an INTENSE and PASSIONATE love for feathered waterfowl with webbed feet and I found my love for a cappella music. I was a voice major at the school of music and I wanted to sing with an a cappella group. I discovered many like-minded students and eventually co-founded the University of Oregon’s first acappella group, On the Rocks. I’LL BET SOME OF YOU HAVE HEARD THEM SING. We went on to place IN THE top THREE, two years in a row at the International Championship of Collegiate A cappella. Without the support of The university and especially the late, great president Dave Frohnmayer, who let us have rehearsals weekly at his home— a cappella at the University of Oregon may never have DEVELOPED INTO THE INSTITUTION IT HAS BECOME.

Through that group I REALLY BEGAN TO FIND myself; WE performed week after week right outside the EMU where evynne and I met and were married and it gives me the most profound pleasure to know that On the Rocks is still performing regularly on campus fifteen years later. I come and hear them perform from time to time and still produce their CDs.

The university gave me the chance to start a new life different from my small town existence in Ashland. I was able to grow from an introvert to someone who was much more confident and outgoing, sharing my love for singing week after week.

Now… I was not the best student, not in high school, not in college, and I dare say that I wouldn’t have ever graduated from the University of Oregon if it wasn’t for a little voice, ONE that my mother planted in my head early in my life that repeatedly told me I WOULD graduate from college….that I would graduate from college…..or else. (How many of your parents did the same thing to you growing up?) --Because... Graduating from college is no small feat, and I sincerely congratulate you all for doing so....

You might be wondering: “who in the world is this guy?” I’m pretty sure the University intended to bring in a movie star, but instead you got an acappella singer. If not laugh --> Kinda the short end of the stick.

I’m just a guy who thinks he can change the world.

And I believe that each one of you has the ability to do so too.

Probably the most interesting thing about me, is that I make a living creating a cappella videos on Youtube…. That means MY MUSIC IS CREATED without instruments, using only my voice and mouth.

I decided early on while still working a part time job down on Franklin Blvd as a pasta boy that I was EVENTUALLY going to earn every penny from making music. For ten years now I have made that VOW a reality. I just made the decision TO GO FOR IT and I didn’t have a plan B.

I took the money I had saved to pursue my masters degree, and WITH IT I started my own small business. I purchased equipment to create a home recording studio and became a self-taught recording engineer and producer. I began recording college a cappella groups AS MY PRIMARY INCOME SOURCE, BUT after performing on NBC’s the Singoff with ON THE ROCKS I realized it was time to turn the mic on myself. I started uploading videos, BEGAN gaining traction, gained an audience and….

NOW, several years later, after creating and fostering a community online, I have over 1 million subscribers on YouTube, and hundreds of thousands of followers on my social networks….. and as of last July, a Sony recording contract.

I make my entire living singing, recording and producing my own music. Along the way, I accidently started my own digital media company, fell in love with the bizdev side of things, and I’m now advising startup companies that specialize in helping artists “create” for a living. I also spend many hours a week advising my peers and trying to educate and guide them through the dark and murky waters of the music industry. yeahhhh, THAT SAME DORKY KID FROM ASHLAND.

Like many industries the music world is going through drastic changes. In this industry, you must constantly reinvent yourself to stay current. And as a dad in his 30’s who sings a cappella, trust me, that’s a HUGE feat.

To succeed in the music industry, one must embrace innovation and technology and all the opportunities they bring. I believe this goes for virtually any job you see yourself creating or PROFESSION YOU SEE YOURSELF entering.

Many musicians consider other artists their competitors and rivals, but that never made much sense to me. I think of other artists as my peers, and I want them to succeed as much as I want to succeed myself. I WANT to lift them up in the process AND raise the entIRE ecosystem. The more we treat ONE ANOTHER in this way, WE will reap the rewards of a new friend and relationship and someone who maY want to help US IN RETURN.

I honestly believe that the best way to achieve success in any profession is to help build up every aspect and individual involved in that profession. I believe that in most cases, nurturing a collaborative environment will create more opportunities for us all than pitting us against each other in a competitive one. After all, opportunity is what all of us really want!


WHERE DO I START? SOME OF MY COLLEAGUES ASK. THE simpleST answer is JUST to begin. TRY. If you don’t try, you WILL automatically fail and, WHAT’S WORSE, YOU’LL learn nothing. Most people think something to death. YES, IT’S GOOD TO dream it, but then DO it. There’s an infinite number of possibilities for you to create for yourself with no one to stop you but your own inertia.

I encourage you to experiment and follow your MOST PASSIONATE INSTINCTS. Screw that. I demand it. You aren’t here on earth to just GO through the motions. If you love doing something, go after it, and go after it with every part of your being….

A quote: FROM THE GREAT American author, editor, and teacher, JOSEPH CAMPBELL 'As you go the way of life,
you will see a great chasm.
Jump. It is not as wide as you think.' "

Stay up until 5am night after night if you need to. AS soon as you see a door close ...go around it, bypass anyone who says you can’t accomplish your goal. MANY times the only reason you will succeed is because you didn’t give up and someone else did.

Everyone has dreams, but to succeed, it’s all about execution. It’s about being a doer. You don’t need to be the best at something, but you sure as hell need to work the hardest....

I love to surround myself with people who are driven and much more intelligent than I am-- which is why I feel so good standing in this arena with all of YOU! ;) -

There has never been a better time to graduate and embark into the world. At no other time in history has it been easier to create your own business and become an entreprenuer, to network with virtually anyone in the entire world. We are now able to crowdsource ideas in seconds from social media, get the answer for any question we want bY simply using google or asking our phone.

Just as I’ve seen it alter the music world, technology will drasTically alter virtually every profession in the workforce. IF you want to be one of the people leading the charge you must choose to constantly innovate and keep up to date with the newest technology in thE path you are choosing..

I’m going to deem you the Class of innovators, whether you like it or not, You will innovate because you will be forced to, but you will succeed if you are ahead of the curve and thrive in doing so…..INNOVATION...… To succeed you must embrace that word. The definition From Google: --- make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products. — I believe to innovate means you constantly are learning, you are constantly looking to better yourself or your career path, basically to treat yourself like a siliCON valley startup.

Technology is bringing us closer and closer together. The way we represent ourselves in the digital world will be just as important as the way we represent our physical self. Please clean up your profiles and present yourself online in the same MANNER you would at a job interview. I beg of you. I get enormous opportunities all the time ONLY because of my digital brand and resume.

The more the world continues to become this enormous connected think tank, the more vital it is to represent yourself as professionally and genuinely as possible. So do it. No more keg stand party pictures and for the love of God stop with the SELFIES.

-- Stop counting the likes. YOU CAN’T JUDGE YOURSELF OR ANYONE ELSE BASED ON LIKES AND COMMENTS. If I took to heart all these negative comments point to screen.... I couldnt get out of bed in the morning.

So Start counting the moments that are in front of you. Because, ultimately, your life is made up of these moments. --- In the end you don’t have to be famous, you just have to make your LOVED ONES proud of you.... And guess what ?! you already have!

Learning to leap at opportunities has been BY FAR the biggest key to WHATEVER SUCCESS I’VE HAD. There is no straight path from where you are today to where you are going…..many of you will have multiple different PROFESSIONS not just jobs, but actual PROFESSIONS in your lifetime, some that don’t even exist yet: that we haven’t even imagined.

MAKE your decisions in life BASED ON love; instead of fear. --- So many of us have chosen paths in life because of money.. ---. Let Money be the byproduct of following your passion.

Let me be living proof: if this 35-year old father can attract millions of followers and make a living making strange sounds into a microphone, while standing in his garage in his underwear

Then you too can do just about anything you want. and if there’s one thing i truly want you to leave with today it’s WWW.YOUTUBE.COM SLASH PETERHOLLENS.

So take a leap, create your own path maybe you’ll be as fortunate as I have been and find, your Home.

And remember, no matter where you go: Once a duck always a Duck.


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Posted on: 12/27/15



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