By David Boyce
Every Monday, from 7 to 8 p.m., freshman Jovan Gill is singing with the Blue Jay Chamber Choir at Liberty High School. It is an extracurricular activity that Gill is participating in to help him grow as a singer.
“The music we do pushes you to learn. It is more challenging,” Gill said of Blue Jay Chamber.
Gill loves to sing and aspires to one day be a member of some of Liberty High School’s select choir groups. Gill is also excited about the prospect of trying out for the boys basketball team later this fall and the baseball team in the spring. Only two months into his first year in high school, Gill, like so many incoming freshmen, is embracing all the activities available to him.
“I enjoy the choir the most and all the sports opportunities,” Gill said. “There is an open place I can workout by myself.”
Liberty choir teacher Rika Heruth sees motivated freshmen like Gill enter high school every fall with an enthusiasm for music that is invigorating.
“The past few years, we have wonderful kids coming up from our feeder schools,” Heruth said. “Dan Rassmussen from Liberty Middle School and Phillip Holthus at Discovery Middle School really share a joy of singing with their students. I feel like the kids who come up here are not only enthusiastic about their singing, but they have the foundation and skill to take it to the next level. It is very exciting.”
Gill has been singing since the fourth grade. His joy for singing grew stronger at Discovery Middle School.
“Mr. Holthus made it really fun, and it was a nice environment,” Gill said. “He knew what he was doing. I knew if I listened to him, I would be a good singer. It helped me stay calm and be a good singer.”
Gill likes music so much that sometimes a tune will pop in his head when he is on the pitching mound.
“If I get on the mound, and I am not doing well, I might remember a song I sang in choir or I might think of a Taylor Swift song and calm myself down,” Gill said.
Based on what Gill accomplished over the summer, the calming mechanism is working well. On September 4, Gill played in an all-star game that featured the top 14-and-under baseball players from the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. The game was held at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida, the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox. The game was televised on Fox Sports, and when Gill pitched in the fifth inning, the announcers talked glowingly about his love of singing.
“I felt just like a major league player,” Gill said. “It was a really nice opportunity to go out there and show what you have in front of the whole country. It was just a fun experience. I didn’t know how important it was until after the fact. I got excited after it ended.”
Gill takes just as much satisfaction with pitching a good game as he does with singing well in a performance with classmates.
“It feels really good,” he said. “I know that is a word you might not want to hear, but it feels really awesome. I like that feeling when I know I didn’t get a note wrong, one I have been working on the whole time. It feels pretty amazing.”
In some respects, Heruth said, there are similarities between singing in a choir and playing on an athletic team. One of the reasons Blue Jay Chamber Choir is in the evening is to give students participating in athletics the opportunity to sing in this group.
“I think it is something that transfers into athletics,” Heruth said. “I was an athlete in high school. I look at other athletes like Jovan. He brings that same discipline and seriousness of purpose into the choir room. He is very focused and obviously really enjoys what he is doing. He brings that enthusiasm to the environment.”
And just like a coach who sees hard work turn into a win, Heruth is thrilled for a choir that turns weeks and weeks of practice into a stunning performance that brings smiles to an audience.
“It is wonderful,” she said. “You feel they have found their voice. They found a way to contribute to something that is bigger than themselves. When they have a wonderful performance experience, you can reflect on all the ways they have grown through the process. That is part of it. All those days in rehearsals where they had challenges they had to overcome. It is very exciting to see that growth.”
Given the discipline and passion Gill has for learning and playing athletics, he will give his family and friends plenty of exciting moments during his time at Liberty. In the classroom, he enjoys chemistry and science. He also might be humming a tune from time to time.
“I sing wherever I am,” he said.