When Jamal Moore sang Moses Hogan’s Give Me Jesus, his voice teacher would get goose bumps. With tears in her eyes, she would ask him to sing it again.
Even though Moore no longer lives in Augusta, he often thinks of it.
The 21-year-old John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School graduate remembers being taught during high school by private vocal instructor Lorri Meyers and singing at church with pride.
“I would like to create a program in Augusta that would expose kids to different forms of music,” he said. “Like she did for me.”
First, Moore plans to focus on his own blossoming career, starting with graduating from the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music this May.
In a testament to his Southern roots, professor Jan Opalach said that when Moore got to Eastman he addressed everyone as sir and ma’am. After a while, Opalach told him he no longer needed to. Moore replied, “Yes, sir.”
“He still calls me sir, four years later,” Opalach said. “He has such a politeness about him. It’s very rare.”
Moore was recently featured on NBC’s The Sing-Off with the rest of his a cappella group, the University of Rochester YellowJackets. The group made it six weeks before being voted off the singing competition Oct. 31.
“We didn’t want to leave, and we felt we deserved to stay,” he said. “But it was an incredible experience.”
On the show, Moore was often singled out. During the YellowJackets’ last show, judge and pop singer Sara Bareilles said, “Jamal, oh my God, I just love you so much.”
Moore said he was surprised by how many solos and opening numbers he was given by the show’s producers. He had figured a few other members of the group would be featured.
THE SHORT STINT IN Hollywood was jarring for the group because it had returned from Kenya just three weeks earlier.
The semester before finding out they would be on The Sing-Off, the YellowJackets teamed up with a nonprofit in the Rochester, N.Y., area called Helping Hearts and Hands, which told the a cappella group about a school in Kenya that had the national choir champs. The nonprofit asked the men to make a video for the choir there. After discussing it, they decided to make the trip themselves.
The group performed three or four gigs a week for the next few months until it raised enough money to go.
Early last summer, the team traveled to Mbaka Oromo Primary School to work with the choir. Opalach remembered how emotional the trip to Kenya was for Moore.
“Seeing the poverty in Kenya was very moving for them,” Opalach said.
Together, the YellowJackets and the Mbaka Oromo choir filmed a documentary called United We Sing, which will be available soon, Moore said.
The YellowJackets hope that besides showcasing some of the voices in Kenya, the film will show the U.S. government how much music matters to students.
“It seems to be the first thing cut in the budget,” Moore said. “If I didn’t have music when I was in school, I wouldn’t have tried as hard. Music is why I’m here.”
VOCAL INSTRUCTOR MEYERS said every time Moore comes into town, he calls her and drops by to sing.
“He has an amazing voice and an amazing drive,” she said. “He can do whatever he wants to.”
After graduating, Moore plans to join the performing circuit with his sister, who is an actress, and eventually move to New York City or Los Angeles.
“Those cities can eat you up,” he said. “I want to be ready.”
Moore’s focus in college has been opera, and he has performed in four so far. He is a bass baritone, however, so his voice will not fully form until he is in his 30s, Opalach said. Until then, Moore hopes to be on Broadway or record his own music.
“I will keep training,” he said. “Maybe I need more of a belly. That seems to help some people.”
Eventually, though, he would like to come back to Augusta and help bring music back to the forefront of culture.
“I would like to help revive Augusta’s musical theater,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be cool if when people came to the Masters, they could see a musical?”