Many in the crowd – even rival Chaminade Julienne fans – came up to Jeff and Marianne Bishop to congratulate them for the way their son had owned the spotlight in Carroll High’s wrestling match against the visiting Eagles a little over a week ago.
It wasn’t so much for what Jefferson Bishop, Carroll’s 170-pounder had done in his match – although his close 4-2 loss to CJ’s David Frederick, a state wrestling qualifier last year and current Greater Catholic League first team, all-league linebacker, had kept CJ from getting any bonus points and helped Carroll to a 36-33 victory – as for the way he opened the night after the Carroll gym went dark.
That’s when Jefferson – dressed in his blue and white wrestling warm-up, his red violin tucked under his chin – appeared bathed in a spotlight. The American flag was lit up, too, and soon the gym was filled with the Carroll wrestler’s stirring rendition of the national anthem.
“When you’re confident in yourself and just play,” he later explain, “you zone out. Nobody’s there. It’s just you, your fingers and the bow. You just watch all of them and you’re mesmerized by it.”
That’s the way it was that night and when he got near the end, he put an exclamation point on his performance by raising everything up an octave – the same way he’s done when he’s performed the anthem at Dayton Dragons’ games – and finishing on a powerful, especially-high note.
With that, he threw his arms skyward – violin in his left hand, bow in his right – as the crowd erupted in rousing applause.
“It was awesome,” remembered Carroll assistant wrestling coach Mark Gerhard.
“My husband and I got a lot of compliments,” Marianne said. “We got some thumbs up and ‘Great job!’ and someone said, ‘Oh, he’s a real Renaissance Man!’”
And Jefferson’s busy schedule this past week underscores just how fully invested the 17-year-old senior is in his seemingly divergent worlds.
Last weekend he and the rest of the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra of which he is part, had a two-day immersion at Camp Kern where they practiced some 20 hours, his mom said, for the group’s three upcoming concerts in Cleveland and the Schuster Center in Dayton.
Tuesday, along with wrestling practice, he had his weekly violin lesson with Fairborn instructor Kathy Johnston, who has mentored him using the Suzuki method since he was 5 years old. Thursday night he upped his wrestling record to 7-7 this season with a forfeit win against Bellbrook.
Saturday and Sunday he was scheduled to wrestle in Toledo at the Catholic Invitational at Toledo St. John’s Jesuit.
“He’s shown that he can combine fine arts with his sports and do well in both,” Marianne said. “I’m proud and happy that’s he’s found his niche in both of those areas.”
Jefferson has especially excelled in his music. Before the Dayton Philharmonic – where by this spring he will have been a part of 13 concerts, he said – he played two years with Springfield’s Youth Symphony.
He also plays in the Wright State University orchestra, at his church – Mary Help of Christians – and with the A.C Strings, the Fairborn community orchestra led by Johnson and initially part to the Abiding Christ Lutheran Church in Fairborn.
The Strings play the Fairborn Sweet Corn Festival every year, a Christmas concert, other communal events and do the anthem each year at the Dragons’ games.
Jefferson also is part of Carroll’s annual talent show and this year is teaming with some others in a newly-formed rock band.
“We’ll play Thunderstuck by AC/DC and Baba O’Riley by The Who,” he said. “And then we’ll finish up with the ending of Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Music runs in the family
Jeff Bishop – who like Marianne is retired from the U.S. Air Force after being stationed around the world – has played the piano for years and the couple decided their four children should be involved in music, as well.
Oldest daughter, London, plays the piano and her music has been featured in theatrical productions at Mount St. Joseph University, where she now goes to college.
Jefferson’s twin sister, Anastasia, plays the piano, as does his younger sister, Guinevere, who also plays the violin.
“When the kids were little, I was encouraged by my sister who got her kids involved in Suzuki lessons, “Marianne said. “The idea is it’s an excellent form of education and mind development. It teaches discipline, endurance, a lot of things.
“I told the kids they had to play until they were 18 and then they could do what they wanted to do and we’ve held true to that for the most part.”
Johnston said Jefferson has a natural talent and has worked hard to get where he is now as a musician. She said he’s also developed some flair.
“He’s a showman,’ she laughed. “Whenever we’re practicing something in the group, he always ends it with a big arpeggio up to the top. Then I yell at him.
“I’m always telling him, ‘That’s beautiful, but don’t do it at the concert. No showboating there.’”
While he’s excelled at violin over the years, Jefferson said it took him a while to find the sport that best suited him.
He initially played baseball and three years of soccer at Carroll, though he had struggled to make the varsity. But when he took up wrestling as a sophomore, he felt it was “a perfect fit.”
“I had a lot of frustration with my other sports and it never felt they really clicked with me,” he said “But I like wrestling because when you get out there on the mat, it’s all on you.”
His mom agreed: “He loves it that it’s an individual sport where you make it or break it on your own. And you get out of it what you put in. It’s a physical challenge and mentally, your mind is always thinking, ‘What am I going to do next?’ It’s a great test.”
Jefferson sees some similarities in wresting and playing the violin: “There’s the discipline, the focus, the creativity that’s needed. You have to really think fast.”
Putting all he can into both pursuits is difficult, especially now, in the heart of the wrestling season.
“It’s difficult to get him and the other students I have like him to practice as much as I’d like right now,” Johnston said. “Now he usually comes to his lessons right after he finishes his wrestling practice.”
That thought made her laugh: ”Sometimes he’s showered…sometimes not….I’m used to it now and we plow on through.”
Best of both worlds
The idea of combining his music and his sport at a wrestling match began last year for Jefferson when Carroll competed at CJ and the Eagles had a wrestler play the Star Spangled Banner on a violin.
“I thought, ‘I can do that!’ Jefferson said.
“This year he came up to me before CJ came over here and asked if he could do the anthem,” said Carroll head coach, Jason Ashworth. “I’ve seen him at the talent shows and know he’s very good. I wasn’t worried how he’d do. I knew he’d be ready to go … and he sure was.
“When the spotlight shined on him, he just went after it. And the reaction from the crowd was the best I’ve ever seen at a match. I knew he’d handle it.”
But Ashworth wasn’t just going on a hunch.
Three months earlier he entrusted Jefferson with another performance.
When he and his wife, Tara, a Spanish teacher at Carroll, were married October 13th at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, several of the Patriots’ wrestlers served as ushers. But Jefferson was up in the choir loft with others providing the music.
“I felt comfortable with him playing our wedding” Ashworth said. “He’s really a multi-faceted guy.”
Like others said after his anthem performance:
“He’s a real Renaissance Man.”