News about a state champion usually has athletics written all over it.
East Valley High School senior Joe Jolley considered going to a regional wrestling tournament this spring but opted instead to concentrate on singing. His choice paid off.
Jolley is the first East Valley student to place first at the state’s high school musical solo/ensemble competition. The senior’s top prize for his solo baritone singing on April 23-24 in Ellensburg also cemented his decision to pursue music in college.
“It’s like if you say a wrestler wins the state tournament and it’s on the sports page. He’s right there,” said Laurie Whittrock, EVHS choir teacher.
“We started out with 3,000 kids from the whole state’s regional competitions and then they narrowed that down to state and those kids went to Ellensburg.”
At state, Jolley sang a song from the opera “Don Giovanni.” To sing in Italian, he practiced the piece daily and worked with a music coach, Mike Caldwell, a retired North Central High School choir teacher. Working with Caldwell for the past two years has really helped, Jolley said.
“We have almost 100 students total in choir. When you get one-on-one time, especially with someone who has done the pieces you’re doing, it makes a huge difference.”
Whittrock said Caldwell has worked with about three students at East Valley, “mostly” volunteering his time because of his love of teaching.
Jolley also sang “Do Not Go My Love” at state.
According to Whittrock and Jolley, the judges were most impressed with his “Don Giovanni” piece.
“Most guys don’t perform ‘Don Giovanni’ until their junior or senior year of college,” Jolley said. “The singing is real fast. There’s a lot of language in it and a lot of Italian.”
To hear Jolley describe how he got started, it almost sounds like singing found him.
A band kid, he was asked one day by a teacher whether he wanted to try out for East Valley Middle School’s musical, “Sound of Music.” Then an eighth-grader, Jolley decided to give it a try.
“I had no idea I had any vocal abilities,” he recalled. “They loved me. I was like ‘Wow, I didn’t know I could sing.’ After that musical, I joined jazz choir.”
By ninth grade, Jolley decided to focus on choir instead of band. He’s also done wrestling for about 14 years and has done well at the high school. This year brought about Jolley’s most difficult choice between singing and wrestling.
He had made this year’s All-state Choir, an honor for about 200 students from around the state to perform as a mass choir.
“The dates were on the same day as the regional wrestling tournament,” Jolley said.
Added Whittrock, “he had to make a decision in a matter of two weeks because if he wasn’t going to All-State, an alternate would go. It was a tough decision.”
Jolley chose All-state, he said, because of his love for music.
“A week after I made the decision to go to All-state, I ended up breaking my ankle and was out for the season anyway. Then, we had a musical going on at the high school and I was freed up to go to the audition. I ended up with the lead.” Jolley played Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors.”
He also had more time to practice his pieces for the state solo/ensemble competition. His plans are to continue singing at the college level, hopefully at Whitworth College, and eventually to sing professionally in opera.
“I come from a very athletic family, five brothers and three sisters, one was a state champion in wrestling, Terry, and my sister, Brianne, her basketball team won state championship in ‘98.
“I’ve kind of broken away from the family trend.”
A slight break away, perhaps, but Jolley can also lay claim to a state championship.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.