Several of Crystal Bowersox's former teachers said they recognized something special about the American Idol Season 9 contestant when she was young.
Vicki Sievert, former music instructor at Rocky Ridge Elementary School, said Bowersox always had a memorable singing voice.
"She had a lot of solos, but I was most impressed when, in third or fourth grade, she brought me a piece that she had written herself and played it for me, and that's when I knew she was an exceptional talent," Sievert said. "It wasn't written down at all. It was just in her head and she just sat there and played it for me on the piano. ... For a young girl to have composed it, it was very, very nice, and I think that's what I was pleased about most."
Sievert said she's especially proud that her former student has not let the big changes in her life change who she is.
"She has always been on her own path and I'm excited for her on 'Idol' that she has been able to maintain that integrity," she said. "You can just hear it in her heart and in her soul, and that truly is being what a musician is. It's just really exciting."
Lynda Wyse, of Genoa, taught Bowersox when she was in second-grade at Rocky Ridge during the 1992-1993 year.
"I remember her as being extremely creative, and it wasn't just in music," she said. "She was extremely artistic, too." Bowersox also excelled at language arts.
"I loved to hear her read out loud. She put so much expression into it," Wyse said.
Of course, music was her strong suit. Wyse recalled a school concert during which Bowersox sang a solo. "All of our mouths dropped. At that young age, she had a beautiful voice."
During that year, the singer was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. Wyse said Bowersox remained balanced during the ordeal.
"She got along well with the other children, and things didn't really seem to faze her that much. She just did her own thing, and she wasn't the type that was always tattling or in the cliques or anything like that," Wyse said. "She was a very good student. ... She would really go after things that she was interested in, definitely, she just had a lot of natural talent for music and for arts and for language arts."
Wyse retired from teaching about three years ago, but when she was at the school she and the others were fans of the show.
"We always had a fantastic time with American Idol even before her. We'd all be guessing about who would be going to go out," she said.
She called Bowersox a memorable student. "She stood out. I have so many memories from so many of my students and I had a lot of fantastic students, but Crystal definitely stood out in terms of creativity."
Her husband, Leslie, also taught Bowersox's American history class when she attended Oak Harbor Middle School, and vividly remembers her performance in a talent contest.
Bowersox sang a song by Jewel. "If you closed your eyes, you would think you were listening to Jewel," he said.
One of her guitar strings broke. Instead of being flustered, she calmly fixed the situation and continued her performance.
"That's the most vivid memory I have of Crystal -- the talent contests and her stage presence, and just how good she was," he said.
"She had her niche and did it well. The students in junior high appreciated her. They knew she was talented."
Even then, she showed maturity. "She was a professional at 13 years old. The demeanor of Crystal was, 'I own this stage and I'm going to do it,'" he said.
Leslie Wyse said her knowledge of herself sets Bowersox apart from the other contestants on the show.
"Crystal is a real person, as opposed to some of the other people. She is the 'real' in 'reality,' quite frankly."
Cheryl Hubans is a retired art teacher from Oak Harbor, who remembers Bowersox as a creative person.
"She had a spiral notebook that she kept. When she got a song she would write the words in there, and she shared it with me. It was just unbelievable, it was an eighth-grade kid in my class. I always knew she was really talented because I had seen her in talent shows," Hubans said.
She's proud of Bowersox, who she said is a person who stays on her path despite obstacles. "There would have to be a national disaster, I think, and I think she would come up out of the ashes. You can't help but like her. I'm so tickled about this whole deal."
Bowersox attended Oak Harbor in the late 1990s, and the web site shows the students and staff wish her good luck.
"Ms. Bowersox was a member of the choir and select choir during her 8th grade year. Crystal was selected by her peers in the Junior High Yearbook as the 'Most likely to someday be a famous artist.'
Story BY CATHARINE HADLEY, for the News-Messenger
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