the longer story

Rising musical artist Smith St. Nicholas was born to a family in distressed circumstances and 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 and cultivate what many recognized as a special musical talent. He was 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, all of which he took on eagerly. Eventually, this culminated in a full-ride music scholarship to university. There, he toured around the world with prestigious singing groups and began working on his debut album as a solo artist.

But in the summer of 2014, while teaching English in rural China, he got sick. A snowboarding accident from years earlier had created 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. Many doctor visits later, the overarching medical advice was not what he had hoped to hear — "learn to cope." As time dragged on and hope dissipated in waiting rooms, he became convinced that his career as a singer had been extinguished. But the loss of identity proved too painful; after over half a decade of searching for answers, he had finally found a promising treatment.

So began his journey to recovery. The ups and downs were unbearable: he was angry at his body and the resilience of this bug; he was sad to be letting down everyone who had believed in him. When he finally regained his ability to sing, his voice had taken on a more gravely tone, one that had been through something.

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.