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Ready to sing: Snohomish teen going to national competition

Photo by Jason Grohoske / Everett AquaSox
Emily Ovall sings the national anthem at the July 9 Everett AquaSox game.

A lifelong Snohomish resident was recently bestowed national recognition for her talents as a vocalist. Not the most expected path for someone born more than two months premature with significant sinus and respiratory conditions.
She’ll be taking the national stage.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) is one of the largest arts education organizations in the world. In a press release by NAfME Director Kristen Rencher, those selected are considered to be the “best of the best” performers in the country, chosen to participate on the highest stage in the All-National Choir Ensembles.
This year, 608 performers from 49 states and territories were selected out of thousands of applicants. Only seven of those selected are from Washington state, one of them being Snohomish’s own Emily Ovall.
Ovall, an SHS junior who’s turning 16 this week, sings at her church and is a member of SHS’s advanced treble ensemble, “Bella Concordia,” directed by Jaci Cummings. Later this month, along with her parents John and Kimberly, and little sister Katie, the soprano singer will be traveling to Orlando, Florida to perform with the prestigious All-National Honor Mixed Choir at Walt Disney World.
“It started from the womb — and that’s not a joke,” said Emily’s mother, Kimberly Ovall, as she and her husband, John, fondly reminisced of playing music and singing to Emily before she had even been born. “After she was here, even all of the NICU nurses would tell us how she would light up for anyone that would sing to her or talk to her… as soon as she could talk she was singing. Honestly, we don’t know her without music.”
Being born more than two months premature, having an asthma condition, and sinus issues that would require surgery later down the road would likely table most people’s aspirations of becoming an elite vocalist, but not Ovall, who accepted, embraced, and persevered through every challenge along the way.
“I had to learn how to breathe through my nose because I was constantly breathing through my mouth,” Ovall said of the sinus surgery she underwent in eighth grade to repair a badly deviated septum. “Having to learn how to re-form vowels was probably the weirdest part of all of it.” Not a challenge many of us have experienced.
As an admitted “struggling perfectionist,” Emily’s passion and dedication to her craft is nothing short of remarkable. When asked to further dissect and explain the subtle nuances of her music, she was conversant in musical terminology, such as how beats are “syncopated,” or explaining the concept of “linear rhythm.” To call these things complex feels like an understatement. And it isn’t difficult to become overwhelmed by the depth and intricacies of Ovall’s knowledge, but it is more than easy to appreciate the exceptional level of talent and professionalism she displays.
When asked what advice she may have for any other young ladies or gentlemen inspired by her journey, the nationally recognized vocalist Emily Ovall offered some humble advice: “Just don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Because, I used to be afraid, too.”


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