the longer story

Rising musical artist Smith St. Nicholas was raised on the edge of an apple orchard in rural Wisconsin. When he was three years old, a neighborhood grandma noticed him gently noodling on the church piano and decided to teach him for free, sparking his lifelong passion for communicating through music. Then at the middle school talent show, he performed "Jesus of Suburbia" by Green Day with some friends, and his small town took notice.

In an instant, resources were mobilized to nurture what many saw as a special musical talent. Invited to study dozens of instruments, sing at festivals across the state, take on music students of his own, and compose for regional choirs and orchestras, he had found his path in life. A few years on, he found himself touring around the world with prestigious singing groups and working on his debut album as a solo artist.

But in the summer of 2014, while teaching English in rural China, he fell ill. A snowboarding accident from years earlier had left a cyst on his lower spine that became infected. The infection quickly spread throughout his body to his lungs and throat before blotting out his singing voice altogether. The medical advice converged startlingly quickly — "learn to cope."

His health deteriorated further over the course of a decade, the loss of identity proving more painful than the physical pain. But the global pandemic had an interesting side effect:  lots of people began to suffer from chronic illness, and lots of doctors began searching for answers. One of them wrote up a demanding 1.5-year daily protocol, but couldn't guarantee that it would give him his voice back. After over sixteen months of timing meals to the minute, traveling across state lines to do labs, and dedicating his humble life savings to a stockpile of compounded pills, he had finally regained his ability to sing. His voice had taken on a more gravely tone, representing all he had gone through to get back to making music.

So many years away from his passion gave him new perspective on life, on patience, on empathy. The dubious self-belief that had brought him from food stamps to international touring musician, and then from medical loss to redemption, had also brought him to Smith St. Nicholas.