Megan Ruger, a contestant on "The Voice," performs at her alma mater in Lake Geneva
LAKE GENEVA—Cheers and howls erupted in the Badger High School gym as Megan Ruger drew out a high note in a cover of Avril Lavigne's “My Happy Ending.”
The singer, a 2005 Badger High graduate and contestant on NBC's hit music show "The Voice," brought energy and attitude to her old stomping grounds Friday before moving on to perform at the Brat Stop in Kenosha later that night.
The 26-year-old Twin Lakes native advanced to the knockout section of The Voice in Tuesday's episode.
The Nashville-based singer beat out fellow Team Blake member Ria Eaton when the two sang a duet of Lavigne's “My Happy Ending.”
Students and staff at Badger High were happy to see Ruger working to achieve her dream of making it as a musician.
“It's good to see her pursuing her singing career,” said Will Harris, Badger High School security supervisor.
Harris and Ruger shared a bear hug as he entered the gym before her performance. The two were all smiles and shared a few laughs.
Harris has worked at the high school for 15 years and would frequently talk with Ruger while she was a student. They wouldn't discuss things she might have been doing wrong, but more about her dreams and aspirations.
Harris thought it was nice Ruger was “coming back and spreading some love with the kids.”
While a student at Badger, Ruger was on the ski team, played golf and regularly sang the National Anthem at school sporting events.
Ruger started singing when she was 3 or 4 years old, said her grandmother, JoAnn Schwalbach. Ruger used to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and Patsy Cline's “Crazy” in the car with her grandparents, Schwalbach recalled.
Ruger refers to her grandmother as her number one fan.
Schwalbach said she is proud of her granddaughter's success and added that Megan's late grandfather would “be extra proud because she (Megan) was very close to us.”
Ruger knew she wanted to make it in the music business at the age of 16 when she began performing the National Anthem at the Country Thunder music festival in Twin Lakes. There she had conversations with headliners like Big & Rich backstage, and she says Big Kenny and John Rich were influential in her decision to move to Nashville at age 20.
“I had the privilege and opportunity to hang out with them and they said if you want to make it, Nashville is where it's at,” Ruger said.
On "The Voice," Ruger is recognized for her strong voice, tattoos and mohawk hairstyle she says takes a good 30-40 minutes to style each morning. She says she has learned a lot about the music business as a contestant on the show.
Ruger said it was “really awesome” because she had three members of The Band Perry and Blake Shelton as mentors. Ruger said Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry would occasionally pick on her accent.
“She said I said 'away' funny, and I said, 'I'm from the North. This is how we say it,'” Ruger laughed.
Ruger hopes to travel and build her fan base while sharing her music with the world. She said the best advice she can give any student is to get an education.
“Definitely finish school and have a back-up plan because music is not a for-sure thing,” she said.
Ruger is pursuing a degree in early childhood education and occasionally is a nanny for some kids in Nashville, a job she had when she was in the early stages of her music career.
“I'm all about kids,” Ruger said. “That's why I came back to the school today.”
Genevieve Heyward, a freshman at Badger High School, was set to perform with Ruger and another young local artist, Tallan Noble Latz, during Friday night's performance in Kenosha. Heyward said Ruger inspires her to keep trying to achieve her dreams as an artist and is happy for her lifelong friend and fellow performer.
“Now she's finally doing what she's dreamed of and it's awesome because she deserves it,” Heyward said.