“My mission is to do more than entertain you, but to impact you,” says rising artist and Greenwood native Ezekiel Andrew McCall.
On Tuesday, McCall will return home to perform a free concert that will weave together elements of Broadway, jazz, spirituals, Americana and hymns as a part of the “Classics at First” series.
The free show will start at 7:30 p.m. in the ballroom of the Historic Elks Building, 102 W. Washington St.
The series is put on by First Presbyterian Church of Greenwood and is organized by the Rev. Ray Smithee, the musical director and organist at the church.
This will be McCall’s second show in his hometown. His first performance in Greenwood was held last year as a part of the same concert series.
“Everybody was simply wowed by his vocal abilities,” said Smithee. McCall’s choice of a variety of genres left the audience buzzing.
“So many people were talking about it last year,” Smithee said. He sees variety important to the performance because “it’s music that everybody can relate to.”
McCall said the upcoming concert’s content will focus on the ups and downs of his journey since his previous Greenwood performance.
“The road is paved with hard, intentional work,” said McCall. “I want to show my county what they produced and how I am working out in the world.”
Although the content may be slightly different than last year, “it is similar in that it’s a variety of musical styles that showcase his musical flexibility,” said Smithee.
McCall originally lived in Itta Bena and attended Leflore County High School. He transferred to Amanda Elzy High School when his parents moved closer to Greenwood.
The move altered McCall’s life forever, because it was in his ninth-grade English class at Elzy High that he first discovered his passion for the arts.
The teacher “had us perform poems and skits that started me taking a liking to it,” said McCall. “I always excelled in those type of things, and he came to me with a brochure for the Mississippi School of the Arts.”
Located in Brookhaven, the school seeks out artistically gifted Mississippi juniors and seniors and offers a challenging arts education. McCall’s vocal music teacher there, Patton Rice, became a defining mentor.
“I was 15 years old, and that man changed my life in ways I am still reaping from to this day,” said McCall.
McCall cites Rice as the person who opened up his view of the art world, particularly with music. Rice showed him genres, such as classical music, that McCall had not known existed.
Rice “taught me how to use my voice, and he cultivated that gift,” said McCall.
Upon graduating from high school, McCall earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Mississippi College in Clinton and then a master’s degree in music from The University of Southern Mississippi.
After his graduate studies, McCall went on to perform in numerous musicals across the country. His favorite roles include Coalhouse Walker Jr. in “Ragtime,” The Beast in “The Beauty and the Beast” and Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
Among others, he’s performed at the Theater Under the Stars in Houston, Texas; the White Plains Performing Arts Center in White Plains, New York; the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theater in Logan, Utah; and the Mississippi Opera in Jackson.
Since last year’s Greenwood show, “I’ve experienced triumphs and setbacks,” said McCall.
Shortly after his first concert in Greenwood, McCall moved to New York City. Since then, he has been busy. He immediately booked a roll as The Beast at the White Plains Performing Arts Center.
“I actually got that call on my birthday,” he added.
McCall also got to live out a dream. When performing in “Ragtime” in Connecticut, he got to wear the costume of the original Coalhouse Walker Jr., Brian Stokes Mitchell.
McCall said getting to stitch his own name next the name of one of his icons was unforgettable.
In addition to continuing his roles as Coalhouse Walker Jr. and The Beast, he’s been in and out of many audition rooms for some of the major Broadway shows and tours.
Most notably, he made it to the final callbacks for “Les Miserables” for the role of Javert.
“It really hurt me not to get it,” said McCall, “but I got positive feedback... and to hear the words ‘You’re on your way’ from the casting directors was great for me.”
McCall is also now a proud member of the Actors Equity Association, which is a “big, happy transition,” said McCall. “I’m now eligible for a higher wage and health benefits.”
With this year of new experiences under his belt, McCall is excited to return to his hometown.
“People of color, particularly in the Delta, don’t know what’s available to them. I want to serve as an ambassador and bring my travels and experiences back home,” said McCall.
With Tuesday’s performance, McCall wants to break down barriers to music. He feels it isn’t just for one group of people, but for all.
“It’s a human art form,” he said.
“I have it in me that I want to come back every year,” said McCall. “That way, kids growing up can keep seeing me. I want to encourage people that this is something you can do and is attainable if you work hard.”
•Contact Kyle Strobel at 581-7233 or email@example.com.