The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Jack VanGorden
Jack VanGorden

Jack VanGorden

Dressed in blue jeans, a plaid button down and brown Sperry Topsiders, Jack VanGorden waited by his front door to greet his visitor. He politely put one hand forward, ready to exchange a handshake, and waited for the gesture to be returned.

On first impression, Jack is just your average 13-year-old boy who loves hanging out with his friends and watching TV. However, Jack’s story is not that of your typical teenage boy. Jack was born with an amazing gift: his voice.

“Ever since I was young I liked to sing,” Jack, who is making a name for himself around Dallas, said. “I got involved in musical theater so then I started joining choirs and all kinds of stuff.”

But it has not been all fun and games for Jack. When he was four years old his parents realized he stuttered.

“We discovered it when he started speaking sentences,” his mother, Jill VanGorden, said.

Jack still participated in regular activities like every other kid growing up, but it wasn’t always easy. Being the youngest of four children, Jack tried the activities his siblings participated in. Sports were popular, not only between his brother and sisters but also with his friends at school. Jack tried soccer, but just didn’t have a passion for it. However, his school offered a choir class and Jack decided to stick with it.

Even with his stutter, Jack found that he has a calling for singing and acting.

“I’m not going to say it isn’t hard but I’m not going to let it affect stuff I want to do. I’ve just got to overcome it,” he said.

Jack joined the Dallas Symphony Orchestra three years ago and has been in approximately 21 performances. This past December he sang in the Christmas Celebration Concert.

“Being a 13-year-old boy it takes a lot of courage for him to follow what he wants to do,” Meghan Janette, Jack’s older sister, said. “But it’s incredible, it’s even more amazing for me since I would see him on a day to day basis and the struggle he has had to go through.”

Jack and his parents live in Richardson in the Plano school district, and Jack attends the Otto Middle School. He will soon have to decide between continuing on with his education at the local Plano high school or going to Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas, which is known for its studies in the visual and performing arts.

“[Singing is] a way to express myself and since I’m good at it, it’s fun to do,” he said.

Singing is a way to encourage children who stutter, experts say. It can help improve their self-esteem, Amy Watson, a student speech clinician at Texas Christian University, said.

“When you get children to sing, using the same articulator,” which is any organ that takes part in speech or sound, it can help them find something positive out of something they originally looked down upon, she said.

“With stuttering a lot of the times it could be a nervous habit but it could also be that your brain is just thinking faster than your mouth is,” Anni Canseco, an assistant speech pathologist at Park Cities Speech, said.

When you learn to sing a song you have specific places where you know to pause and take a breath. Stuttering has a lot to do with breathing and when you are singing you are able to concentrate on what you are doing and when to take a breath rather than when you are answering a question, delivering a speech or having a conversation.

“Everybody stutters occasionally when they are thinking, it’s just harder for some than others,” Canseco said.

Jack has taken the one part of himself he finds to be an insecurity and turned it into something he loves to use. When he sings his face lights up, and people can see how much he enjoys getting on stage to perform, his mom said.

“He performed it beautifully,” VanGorden said. Which just goes to show how much of a passion he has for singing.

Jack’s love for singing is seen in his favorite TV shows, American Idol and Glee, as well as his extracurricular activities. He is currently involved in play rehearsal, taking piano lessons and is about to start guitar lessons.

Jack’s next big project is going to be singing in a performance of the Russian opera, “Boris Godunov,” by Modest Mussorgsky. The show will be at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas in April. Not only will members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra be participating in the remake of this Russian opera, but also professional opera singers from Russia.

As for his future: “I mean I would love to pursue singing and acting in the future,” Jack said. “But if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”

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