(journalscene.com)– With eyes closed and hands moving to the beat inside his head, Kelontae Gavin sings an acoustic version of Chris Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace.” As the words roll off his tongue, his body, mind and soul are seemingly transported to a spiritual realm only he knows.His composure as he performs and wisdom about why he loves music give off an air of quiet confidence and confusion about his age. Could he really be just 17?
The Summerville High School senior and Pringletown native—just “like the chips,” he says with a laugh—is familiar with people questioning his age and calling him wise beyond his years. In his short life span, Gavin’s already completed two gospel music tours across the country and spends many weekends throughout the year performing out of town.
“To leave from home—it’s speechless, indescribable,” Gavin said.
He recently celebrated his gospel radio debut on Friday, with the digital release of his song and album of the same title, “Higher,” a single produced by Grammy Award winner Myron Butler, and one his mother wrote years ago.
“Her pen is anointed,” Gavin said.
In addition to the song’s release on ITunes and other digital platforms, Gavin’s performance of the faith-filled classic “I Won’t Complain” was featured Sunday on Black Entertainment Channel’s (BET) Gospel music hour series “Joyful Noise.” About two months ago, a show producer contacted Gavin’s manager about the opportunity—one he looks forward to telling his children and grandchildren about one day.
“That’ll be something—to tell my (grand)kids, ‘Your granddaddy’s life was changed over a viral video,’” he said.
Gavin’s success has humble beginnings. It was a normal day at Summerville High School in 2014—Gavin just a sophomore at the time—when he decided at a lunch lady’s request to belt out in the Green Wave cafeteria one of his favorite tunes “I Won’t Complain.” With a blue book bag still strapped to him, he gladly obeyed.
“She said, ‘Hey, give me a song,’ and without hesitation, I just leaned back and closed my eyes,” Gavin said reflecting on that day.
Moved by his passion and rich vocals, the cafeteria worker recorded the song—unbeknownst to Gavin—and posted it online.
“It was an incredible moment. Everyone was crying.”
From the moment it was uploaded, the recording witnessed countless “likes” and shares. Gavin describes the success as his career’s “breaking point.”
It wasn’t until three days later, when he checked his Facebook message inbox, that he realized the overnight popularity. It was also at that point he first discovered his performance had been recorded and shared. And the messages didn’t stop pouring in.
“I’m talking about white, black, purple, Chinese,” Gavin said of all the fans who wrote him. As the messages and emails haven’t stopped pouring in, the popularity continues to overwhelm him.
“It makes me feel like, ‘Wow, who am I?’” he said. “I go outside and do some cartwheels…I’m just human, too.”
Gavin’s unofficial music career dates back to age 4 when he first sang in church at his former place of worship, Favor Ministries in Ridgeville. It was the end of service and a moment that defined his life.
“I’ll never forget it,” he said. “All I know is music, in church.”
For Gavin, every time he has a microphone in hand and stage at his feet, he loses touch with reality.
“When I sing, I don’t even see a microphone. I see influence,” he said. “When you get the microphone, it can be a good influence or bad influence.”
And that’s his main goal; Gavin hopes the words he echoes will positively impact others and “inspire my generation again”—his target audience being that of his own millennial generation.
“Because I inspire you can inspire someone else,” he said. “My dad would tell us, ‘At the end of the day, if you can reach one person, you can influence a whole generation.’”
For more information on the Summerville teen, visit kelontaegavin.com. Also, go to YouTube to see the performance that started it all.