Mahomet-Seymour graduate Onoleigh Pommier will perform with Nashville recording artist Jake Loban at Yo Yo’s on October 27 from 7 to 11 p.m.
Pommier is currently enrolled at the University of Missouri, Columbia where she studies social work. During the final months of her senior year, Pommier is completing her work-study in the social work field as she helps middle school students.
Over the summer, she lived in Nashville where she performed countless country covers at Tootsies ®. She hopes to continue her career in music as she plans to move to Nashville in December. But Pommier also hopes to change the world through music: “My overall mission in life is to speak for the speechless and love the unlovable, and music has given me that chance.”
Free hot cider will be available for patrons during the performance. Food trucks will also be nearby, YoYo’s will offer half-priced yogurt and adults are allowed to bring their own alcoholic beverage to the performance.
Pommier shares some of her passion through a Q&A:
Why and when did you get into playing music? When did you begin performing?
I have always had a great interest in music! From a very young age, I would sing for my parents at any chance I could. I remember driving 14 hours home from North Carolina after visiting some family and would sing through complete silence the entire way back; sometimes I would even sing the application directions on the back of shampoo bottles in the shower!
My love for music grew once I got to middle school. Solo & ensemble, along with district chorus was something that I lived for and continued to until the end of high school. Once high school rolled around, I found my niche in marching band! I was a marching clarinet player for one season and quickly realized that I wanted to be in a more administrative role.
I auditioned for drum major my sophomore year and very unexpectedly got it! I spent the next three years dedicating my high school experience to bettering our band and traveling to competitions. The marching band was honestly my life in high school, and something that I believe kept me on track in years to come.
During my senior year, I went to a drum major camp “Smith Walbridge” at Eastern Illinois University and was awarded most outstanding drum major. I participated in National Anthem singing as an extension of our choral program and although it made me nervous, there was nothing like singing on a microphone through complete silence for a crowd of people. I sang in the variety show a couple of times and did two musicals; Mary Poppins & Footloose! It wasn’t until this past summer did I actually get up on a stage and perform by myself! It was a learning curve to say in the least, but the most rewarding risk I have ever taken!
Your Facebook page talks about a longing for music and finding your voice. Can you tell me more about that?
I have always felt there was something bigger in my life that I was supposed to be doing. It wasn’t until I came to college and started working in non-profit organizations and low-income areas did I get a glimpse of what needed to be done.
Growing up, I was extremely fortunate in the sense that I never had to worry about food on the table or having a roof over my head. I had parents who tucked me in at night and made my lunch every morning before school and at the very least told me they loved me 10 times a day. The sad reality?, I still struggled. Every bit of my pain was real and I will never discount that.
Pain demands to be felt no matter your background, but it really is all about perspective. I can only imagine what life would have been like if I didn’t have such a strong foundation at home; that’s when I knew I needed to be a social worker. My overall mission in life is to speak for the speechless and love the unlovable, and music has given me that chance. I want to use this talent as a platform to push for social justice and help those who are struggling with anything and everything.
Often times, celebrities have such a platform for change, but they let fame sweep their priorities right out from under them. If my career ended up taking off as I hope it to, instead of buying a bigger boat or building a bigger house, I would lead/fund projects like make water pipelines accessible in places that can’t receive fresh water or start a homeless rehab facility in which the dignity and self-worth of a person is always the top priority.
I want to show young girls what it is like to have a voice and a high self-esteem and children in general that suicide is never the answer. I lay awake at night writing plans as to what I would do if I had the means to do so, and this past summer showed me exactly what I can do and what I want to work for. I really want to use my voice for a positive purpose, because at the end of the day people have so much power, it all just depends on how you use it.
Do you perform your own music? Do you sing popular songs? What does your set look like and how did you choose it?
Right now I only perform popular country songs. Tootsies ® in Nashville focuses on older, more historical country songs from artists like Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Johnny Cash etc. When I landed my gig at Tootsies ®, they gave me a list of almost 200 songs I had to know as soon as possible. I spent the next week on Spotify, listening to that playlist constantly and learning every song note by note. Many bars in Nashville are on a request line basis meaning if you put some money in our tip jug, we will play your song! This idea is why I have to be so prepared and think on the fly.
When I moved to Nashville this summer, I knew one country song by heart from start to finish: “Walking After Midnight” by Patsy Cline. Now I can confidently sing for four-hour shifts, without ever repeating a song. I have been writing a lot lately, but with this being my final semester in college, time is the biggest thing that gets in the way. Once I move to Nashville permanently in December, I am confident I will get my personal music moving.
What do you like about performing?
I love the freedom that comes with performing. I genuinely feel like my true self when I’m on stage. I can be as silly, dorky or outgoing, as I want to be, and it’s just fun!
Who are some of your musical influences?
I take a lot of pieces, parts from many different musicians. Over the summer I would spend 12 hours at a time sitting in bars just listening to local artists and their renditions of songs. I met so many talented people on the way, Jake Loban being one of them.
Jake’s original sound was classified under the musical genre of punk rock, a passion that took him on tour to Europe with a popular band known as “The Unseen.” After switching to a more Country/Americana feel, Jake put out an album called “Chasing Fire” and is currently writing and performing all over Nashville to this day.
Jake has an extremely focused mindset in the music industry and has for sure helped guide me. Musicians are the rawest, most confusing people you will ever meet, but they are the best people to learn from! Celebrity wise, I look up to Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Adele, and Sam Smith as they have all been introduced to me at different stages in my life that brought some meaning and understanding to certain situations.
Can you tell me more about what you’ve been doing since you left MSHS? Where are you now?
Currently, I am a social work major at the University of Missouri, Columbia. I am finishing my final semester working in a middle school as a guidance counselor. Every day looks extremely different and can be very unexpected.
I truly think my summer in Nashville prepared me for this semester at the middle school in a sense of showing me the benefits of flexibility. This summer, I never got a daily schedule; instead, my manager would call me every morning around 6 am (or earlier) to tell me where he needed me that day on Broadway. Even if you were told something, it could change within the hour, so I learned not to take life too seriously.
This semester at the middle school, I have used that same mentality. Some days I am dealing with abuse and neglect, while others I am looking at security cameras to see who tripped who in the hallway. Working in a low-income school district this past semester has completely humbled me, yet broke me at the same time. I want to forget the politics and just love on people, but at the end of the day its bigger than that.
At this point, I see myself making music for the rest of my life. I hope to make enough money to where I can start giving it all away. I don’t even know where to start, but since working in the non-profit world, I have realized that unfortunately, money has a huge say in who gets help. I feel there is an overall purpose for me- something that wakes me up at night and paralyzes me with wonder. My job varies so much, but I have learned to take it for what it is and love it anyway.