DeSoto East Middle School Teacher of the Year Makes History

Headshot Jamal Walker
Jamal Walker Photo Courtesy of DeSoto ISD

Jamal Walker Sang With International Virtual Choir

DeSoto – DeSoto East Middle School Choir Director and campus Teacher of the Year, Jamal Walker, was one of six hand-picked choristers featured on CBS Sunday Morning who took part in the largest virtual choir ever assembled. Simply known as Whitacre’s Virtual Choir and conducted by Grammy-award winning composer Eric Whitacre, the choir is composed of 17,572 participants representing 129 countries singing the newly-penned, COVID-19 inspired song, “Sing Gently.”

“It felt good to be a part of one of the good things of 2020,” said Walker. “It was a nice thing to do and to know that I was a part of this historic moment in time during such a trying time for the world given the impact of Covid-19.”

Like the more than 17, 000 participants, Walker recorded himself singing online at home on his webcam. Then he submitted it to the production studio and waited to see the final digital compilation. While thoroughly appreciating the sound of the virtual choir as he watched the release, Walker was amazed by the graphic artistry and emotion that accompanied the final piece.

“I watched it several times,” said Walker, “[…] to see the words and the symbolism playing on the screen, gives you peace, it calms you when things seem to be going awry.”

“The premise of the song was to help the world heal during this global health pandemic and to bring people together when the world seems to be torn apart,” said Walker. “It gives you hope that the world will get better.”

Experience With Virtual Choirs

An accomplished vocal artist, Walker is not new to the concept of virtual choirs. He’s participated in Whitacre’s series of virtual choirs for over 10 years. He was also selected by Whitacre to sing live at Carnegie Hall during a concert during the start of his music education career. Walker was a part of the first choir of less than 200 people and has seen its continued growth with each participant call expanding to include 2,000 participants, then 3,000, 8,000, and now, over 17,000 people.

The history-making virtual choir resonated even more deeply with Walker because of its inclusivity.

“It is really not a group or organization or anything,” said Walker, “It is just made up people who wanted to sing during quarantine and Whitacre wanted to make the lyrics and song simple so that everyone could participate.”

People from around the world lent their voices to the project which included people of all ages, various ethnicities and life experiences–the blind, deaf and with even those with chronic illnesses whose fragile conditions limit the ability to engage with other people for risk of infection which could be fatal or deeply detrimental.

The Power Of Music

DeSoto ISD Fine Arts Director Jaime Kovar, Ph.D., spoke highly of this experience and the educational contributions of Walker, a nine-year music educator.

“Eric Whitacre is known across the world as one of the most prolific and cutting-edge modern composers who truly believes in the power of music to unite people worldwide with the universal language of music. To have the opportunity to perform under his direction, and have his video hand-selected by the composer, is a testament to Mr. Walker’s talent and love for music,” said Kovar. “Teachers like Mr. Walker demonstrate that music transcends the boundaries of the classroom, and inspire our students to keep reaching and growing in what they love to do.”

“It is like it gave me my second wind,” said Walker who is now considering creating a similar experience for his students this fall once the district commences virtual instruction under Anytime, Anywhere Learning.