He’s modest about his Campus Idol win, saying, “There were some amazing talents performing and I was shocked to get the email that I’d won.” But the Campus Idol competition wasn’t Jordan Scholl’s first time vying for an award: this U of G master’s student in human health and nutrition (with a minor in music) sings with the Elora Festival Singers, a professional chamber choir that has been nominated for both a Grammy and a Juno.
Scholl says that his win is less important than the Campus Idol cause: raising funds for the United Way. “Before the competition, I went to the human anatomy class where I’m the TA, and asked them all to donate. They said they wouldn’t unless I sang for them,” says Scholl. So he sang “You Raise Me Up,” then collected $262 from the class – and was touched by his students’ generosity.
Giving to the United Way was important to Scholl because he knows his current achievements have in part depended on the support he’s had from his parents and the opportunities he’s been given. “Not all kids get those opportunities,” he says.
And not all kids who do get opportunities run with them the way Scholl has. His love of music started early: Scholl’s first dream was to become a concert pianist. After singing a solo in a school show in Grade 3, though, he discovered a passion for singing and promptly joined every choir he could find.
But this musician’s mind has a technical bent. “Usually singing is taught in a very abstract way, and singers are told to visualize the results they want. That didn’t make sense to me,” says Scholl. “Then one day my voice teacher pulled out an anatomy text, and I thought, yes, this is what I needed.” Scholl thinks of his voice as an instrument, and finds that understanding the components that go into making the sounds helps him perform better.
Despite his musical successes, Scholl sees himself heading towards a non-musical career. His goal, after completing his master’s degree in the spring, is to attend medical school and become a physician who works with singers. “Thinking about anatomy changed my life as a singer,” he says. “I’d like to be able to help others.” He’s already written a manual on this topic – currently in pre-publication.
Finding a way to combine his passions hasn’t always been easy. Scholl took a year off after high school because he felt so torn. Some friends encouraged him to pursue a career as a singer; others (especially his mother) urged him to start on the path to medical school.
During that year, Scholl focused on music. He and a friend even co-wrote a musical called “Beige: The Musical,” a show about “finding your own path and not living a beige life.” They obtained funding for a performance, and when one performer had to drop out, Scholl, who was co-directing, took over the part. The show was a hit but despite how much he enjoyed his year of music, Scholl realized “a piece of me was missing. So I went to university, and there it was, that missing piece.”
Combining the demands of post-secondary education and life as a performing singer isn’t easy. “I haven’t taken a semester off since I started university,” says Scholl. Alongside his class and study schedule, he has rehearsals and performances to attend – a schedule that gets even busier as the Christmas holiday season approaches. Besides the Elora Festival Singers, Scholl sings with a baroque ensemble called Arcady (which performs Handel’s Messiah in the style of Handel’s time) plus another choir in Brantford, and is frequently asked to sing solos for other groups.
If he achieves his goal of attending medical school, Scholl expects that his singing will have to take a back seat to class and lab hours. “I don’t know yet what city I’ll be in, and I know I’ll have to quit some stuff, but I hope to keep doing solos because they require fewer rehearsals,” he says.
Even if he cuts back, Scholl knows he will keep singing. “Music provides the balance in my life, and that’s important for people to have,” he says. On the other hand, he loves what he’s learning in his U of G courses, because they’re tough. Scholl likes a challenge. “If it’s not challenging, it’s not fun,” he says. “If it doesn’t make you work hard, then you don’t get that sense of satisfaction.”