Music came first for Michael Gifford. The Douglas High School junior was raised in a musical household, he’s been singing as long as he can remember, and sticks with it to this day.
In only a metaphorical sense, Michael is also a juggler. In addition to his schoolwork, Michael is a wide receiver on the football team, was cast in the fall musical, swims on the boys’ team, is a midfielder on the soccer team, and is a trumpeter in the marching band.
Oh yeah, and he is preparing for a national honor choir performance.
The jack-of-all-trades will be in Orlando, Florida, Nov. 7–10 for the National Association for Music Education 2019 All-National Honor Mixed Choir. The bass 2 became eligible for the national choir after being named to the Wyoming All-State choir back in February, and he earned his place after a follow-up audition and is one of five students from the state in the mixed choir.
He will have an opportunity, as one of more than 230 high school sophomores and juniors from around the United States in the mixed choir to work underneath decorated conductor Tesfa Wondemagegnehu.
Across all of his activities, there is one common thread. Michael appreciates the nature of being on a team, the feeling of working with a group. This is Michael’s first year with the Bearcats football team after playing the sport in middle school. He’s appreciated the opportunity to play for coach Jay Rhoades and the bonds he’s built with his teammates.
During games, Michael doesn’t have the same chance as most of his teammates to rest during halftime. He sprints back to the team’s sideline to talk off his jersey and pads and join the rest of the marching band with his trumpet in hand.
While he has sang his whole life, Michael has only played the trumpet since the sixth grade. The only issue for the real-life Troy Bolton is the overlap of practices.
He goes directly from football practice each day to marching band practice. Then one day out of the week, Monday, he goes inside for fall musical rehearsals. This year’s fall musical will be The Sound of Music, where Michael will be portraying Rolfe. As excited as he is for the show, it may be difficult to usurp his favorite performance — last year’s fall musical, Back to the 80s where he had the lead role of Corey Palmer.
After the musical is over, and before the spring play kicks into gear, Michael spends his time in the Douglas Rec Center pool with the rest of the Bearcat swimmers. Playing football, he said, gives him an opportunity to prepare his body for the rigors of swimming. Swimming is something that has always been a part of Michael’s life — just like music.
He’s more than looking forward to the start of boys swimming this winter. After attending a summer swim camp to work on his form as a whole, he believes he’s ready to make another step up and improve for coach Baxter Heinert. He loves being in the pool and competing, but admits that he appreciates the down times with his teammates to play games and just be a teenager.
In the spring, he splits his time between the upcoming play, the title of which hasn’t been decided on, and the spring soccer team. An athlete and an artist, Michael sticks mainly with the performing arts. He doubts his ability to draw or paint, but relishes the opportunity to relax and create art.
“I like coloring with colored pencils. When you get some free time and you don’t want to be on electronics or read, you can really dial it down with a coloring page,” he said.
He holds tightly to his experience with the arts, but values that they can be about more than just the art itself. One of the most important aspects of the team and of the choir in particular for Michael is the closeness.
He said that he considers the entire choir to be friends and people he can trust.
Recently a classmate confided in him that they felt like they didn’t have friends. Michael had one piece of advice for her: “I told her, join choir because you go in there and it’s like a family.”
For him, the choir and theater are also places to spend time with his real family. His brother, Andrew Gifford, and father, choir and theater director Randy Gifford are all together doing music. His mother, Connie Gifford, is a special education paraprofessional at the high school.
The future is still wide open for the Douglas native. With almost two year left until he starts college, Michael isn’t sure where he wants to go or what he’ll study — though he’s considered following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a music teacher.
Even if he does, he vows to be his own man. He’s looking to go out-of-state for college as a chance to be in a new environment with completely new people. Everything is still up in the air for him, but Michael is hoping that he can attend a college or university that offers time in musical theater.
But that’s the future.
For the present, Michael is who he is — a music aficionado, fantasy book reader, three-sport athlete, thespian, high school junior and much, much more.