When Clearwater Campus Provost Stan Vittetoe visited a local Boy Scout camp on Flag Day in June, he had no idea that the young singer who did such a beautiful a cappella performance of the Star Spangled Banner was one of his own Clearwater students.
But Vonabell Sherman of Clearwater has been surprising and impressing people for quite a while. Though only 16, she has been singing since the age of seven. She’s been enrolled at St. Petersburg College since the age of 14, and is close to completing her requirements for an associate’s degree.
Vittetoe didn’t recognize her as an SPC student when he visited Camp Soule, but she got his attention as soon as she started singing.
“She got up outdoors and sang the National Anthem a capella, and I can tell you she just blew us all away,’ Vittetoe said. “It is a difficult song to sing and to do it outdoors with no accompaniment was really something to experience.”
In her young career she has a number of accomplishments to her credit. She tried out for American Idol earlier this year, and made it through four preliminary rounds, good enough to earn the right to sing before judges Jennifer Lopez, Stephen Tyler and Randy Jackson. While she didn’t progress further, she said the judges urged her to try again next year.
She also had a tryout on the X Factor, in addition to a busy schedule of local performances. She has sung the National Anthem at Blue Jays Stadium in Dunedin, has performed for the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance, and has sung for a state event for children with disabilities.
She has been home-schooled for the past five years and has completed her high school studies.
“Previously I went to private school, and various elementary and middle schools before that,” she said. “There came a point in time when I knew public school wouldn’t be right for me. In the 10th grade, I passed an exam which allowed me to dual-enroll at St. Petersburg College, and that’s where I have been studying for the past two years.”
“I will get my associate’s degree this fall,” Sherman said.
She has other passions besides singing. She is fluent in American Sign Language, and has a great love for all things Japanese. She speaks the language reasonably well, she said, and has ambitions to teach English as a Second Language in Japan.
She and her brother have visited Japan. She said her interest in that country began with an interest in Anime, cartoon animation which originated in Japan nearly 100 years ago.
“I love the people and the culture, and I want to go back there and further my studies,” she said.
Vittetoe said he hopes Vonabell’s future includes further studies at St. Petersburg College.
“She is a remarkable young lady who is thinking about where to go for four years,” Vittetoe said. “She could go just about anywhere she wants to go – I think she has a GPA around 4.0. I hope she’s thinking about SPC for her bachelor’s degree.”
Some of Vonabell’s singing performances can be viewed on her YouTube channel.