Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance, UNC Charlotte (2013)
Hometown: Garner, NC
Even as a student at UNC Charlotte, John Woodall had a passion for serving the military through music. In 2012, his band, Brother Gravity, performed for the sailors aboard the USS Dwight D Eisenhour. Now he is the artistic director for Camp4Heroes, a new non-profit organization that serves wounded veterans and first responders. John organizes the artistic events and music program for the camp and provides outlets for the veterans to write their own music and to receive music therapy. He is also writing and performing music to build awareness of and support for the camp's mission. Learn more about that work in this video.
"Right now 20-25 veterans and 11-15 first responders commit suicide everyday. I want to raise awareness about this horrible statistic and get civilians involved with listening to their veteran counterparts in this country. I have written a song called 'Stand Tall,' which is a call to action for civilians to come out and support these men and women who are fighting for our freedoms. I want to get as many people as possible to download the song, which will in turn help build funds for the camp. I am raising money to build a recording studio, chapel, and counseling center on the property at the camp, and we are always looking for donors as we expand."
While the musical work he does now lies outside the "classical" canon, John says his experiences at UNC Charlotte, where he not only formed Brother Gravity, but also sang baritone roles in opera workshop productions, prepared him well for his current career.
"I spent countless hours in the practice room and in study, learning how the greatest composers shaped music. I don’t pretend to be at their level, but the education I received at UNC Charlotte prepared me to be able to take a veteran’s words and stories and put them to music by capturing the feeling of their words in the music. It prepared me to play for countless hours while the wounded sit and close their eyes and let the frequencies surround and heal them. I know that music has healing powers because I have witnessed it first-hand. UNC Charlotte prepared me for this project by giving me a knowledge base that in turn I could share with others and provide that kind of healing."
He recalls in particular Dr. Jacqueline Yost's passionate instruction at the piano, teaching her classes how music had transformed over the centuries. "That is when it all came together for me. I began to understand that the time in the practice room and the time spent studying theory is what would make me more proficient at portraying meaning through music…..expanding my musical palette."
He encourages current students to take full advantage of the opportunities in the Department of Music, but also to contribute to the department through their own unique gifts. "If students take responsibility for their success and structure it so that it not only helps them individually, but also gives back to the program through feedback and alumni contributions, they can be a part of creating an even better curriculum that reaches outside the university and impacts the community."