The Lone Wolf Singer of Smiths Station

Images by Blakeney Cox

 

Garrett Lindsey is an anomaly.

In 2014, he was hired as Jasper High School’s new choral music director. For the last two years, he has also assisted Joe Matthews with the reincarnated Jasper Men’s Chorale. After a few minutes of observing him working with these groups, it’s clear this guy knows his stuff.  

So, he obviously comes from a family of singers and musicians. Right?

Try again. “I was the lone wolf,” Garrett says. “All my cousins played sports. My dad was a baseball coach, so I played baseball.”

Garrett, 28, grew up in Smiths Station, a small east Alabama town near Auburn. When he was in fifth grade, the high school choir performed at his school. That day, a seed was planted.

“I thought, ‘That’s something I’d like to be a part of,’” he says.

But choir was only offered for ninth grade and above. That year, Garrett wandered into the choir room and signed up, not knowing what to expect. Three years later, he graduated with a choir scholarship to Southern Union, then earned his Choral Music Education degree at the University of Alabama.

Upon arriving at Jasper High, Garrett realized Encore, the school’s choir group, had potential, but there was room for improvement. It would require students’ blood, sweat, and tears, but Garrett wasn’t afraid to get down in the trenches with them. “One thing they hired me to do was make it competitive,” he says. yet, there was also potential for more student participation. That led to the creation of an all-girl choir, Diamonds, and a concert choir. “Concert choir is a new thing I’m encouraging the athletes who can’t commit to Encore to do,” Garrett explains.

Their hard work paid off. Soon they were competing at schools in Albertville, Opelika, and Pelham, Miss.—and winning. “Last year, Encore placed at every competition,” Garrett says. “They won the first one, which was a big deal for us because there were 13 groups there. At the Auburn High School competition, we made finals. Diamonds had a good year, too. They got fourth place at every competition.”

This year, Garrett and Co. will compete nationally in Nashville, Tenn, then host a competition at home next February. For those who have not seen Diamonds and Encore perform, Garrett promises a show you won’t forget. “I hope the city will come,” he says. “You’ve never seen (these group) like that. They’re firing on all cylinders. The audience is screaming. It’s intense.”

Although they enjoy the competitions, Garrett says learning is the ultimate goal. Winning is just a bonus. “I love the kids who come in, and they’re eager. Sometimes those are the best students,” he says. “Everything you do is awesome to them, like when they sing harmony for the first time. It’s like walking them through a whole new world.”

Music is not only an art, but a form of communication and expression as well. Garrett says he loves seeing music break through barriers of language, culture, and race, and bring people together. “Anybody can learn music,” Garrett says. “Anybody can learn how to sing, if they have the will. If the student can do something every day they couldn’t do yesterday, then we’ve succeeded.” 78

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