When Nolan Gibbons was a very small child, he quietly marked each white key on the family piano with a letter – the correct letter designation for each. But that alone did not alert his parents Shelia and Warren that their child was interested in music, it was all the other things he was doing – singing and harmonizing with songs on the radio, teaching himself how to play the piano and later the ukulele, writing music and, oh yeah, before he became a teen, winning New England’s Got Talent.
That was back in 2017. Since that time Gibbons has been developing his talent and, as such, his interest in all things musical has grown. “I write music, and I’d like to produce music,” he shared recently.
Sitting in his kitchen with his mom by his side, Gibbons presents as a well-rounded, nearly 14-year-old, soon-to-be high school freshman. His warm smile and direct eye contact are engaging and unexpected given his age. It also speaks to his maturity and comfort level meeting people for the first time. But he’s truly in his element when talking about what moves him the most – music.
“Music is my life,” Gibbons earnestly said. Recently he was selected as a member of a new vocal group Acapop. The a cappella group is being produced by the same team who brought together the internationally renowned Pentatonix. He has traveled to New York City and to Dallas for audio and video taping sessions. Those recordings will drop soon, he said. The style of music Acapop is recording is known as beat-box. Gibbons, however, isn’t confined to a singular type of musical expression.
In July Gibbons will be heading to Los Angeles to participate in a ten-day camp at A Cappella Academy that is especially designed for young vocalists. His mother shared that the camp, whose management selected Nolan based on his audition, “is an intensive 10-day program where young vocalists from all around the world come together to learn, connect, and study music in an immersive and fun environment. This is a competitive, audition-only program, only 78 of the best young performers are chosen out of thousands of applicants.”
Being this immersed in music is not unlike living with an elite athlete Gibbons’ mother said. The time commitment both he and his parents pour into his musical endeavors can’t be overstated – there are sacrifices. But school comes first Mom insists. “He missed about three weeks of school while in Texas and New York,” she confided. But he has been working hard to catch-up and stay current with his classmates. Nolan explained the delicate balance between music and school. “I didn’t want my music to be the wrong decision.” A decision that could have had a negative impact on his grades in school. “It’s tough making it work,” he said, “… but worth it.”
Early on Nolan’s parents recognized the importance of providing their talented child with rich educational experiences that included music. That was a primary reason the family settled in Marion, Shelia shared. They believed that the music programs at both Sippican Elementary School and the Old Rochester Regional School District schools would give Nolan a chance to continue on his musical journey. Both Nolan and his mother credit the music teachers in the schools with helping him grow musically. “We said to ourselves, ‘We have this talented kid; it’s our job to create a space that gives him opportunities.’”
Gibbons’ parents are fully aware of the pitfalls that talented youths may experience. That’s one of the reasons they declined the opportunity to have Nolan participate in America’s Got Talent after his regional win. “We want him to do what he likes, but we didn’t want national exposure – not then,” his mother said.
But even in the absence of a possible T.V. appearance, the singer, songwriter, and performer has taken advantage of a wide-range of opportunities. Some of his best experiences have come from his early membership in Showstoppers Performing Arts, Inc. The local youth organization has been entertaining and training children in all things musical for years and, for Gibbons, they taught him a great deal about stage presence and live performance techniques.
Building on those experiences, Gibbons has played in a number of musical plays such as Oliver at the Marion Art Center. He is now in rehearsals with the theater group Break-A-Leg Theater out of Plymouth, which will open their production of Shrek The Musical on August 16 at Derby Academy in Hingham. No surprise, Nolan will be playing the lead – Shrek.
“When we first got into musical theater, I told Nolan, “I’ll drive for an hour,” thus setting the parameters for how far she’d go to get him to an audition, rehearsal, or performance. Yet opportunities have a way of changing travel restrictions and now Nolan is headed to Los Angeles.
As a matter of fact, the aspiring musical talent will find himself with a full schedule through the summer. In July he’ll be studying at Berkley as well as going to Los Angeles – events that will run concurrently with his preparing for Shrek which will take him through August. Shortly thereafter it’s back to school where he’ll be plying his talents across the stage at ORRHS and other venues while working hard to maintain academic standing.
If you want to see a performance by Nolan, you will find him on YouTube. There is also a Go Fund Me Page to help with travel expenses to California: www.gofundme.com/help-send-nolan-to-a-cappella-academy-2019.
By Marilou Newell