Nightingale’s song, dynamo’s drive

Posted in: Society
By Kaye Collier
Mar 21, 2013 - 8:26:21 AM

BETSY WALLERAs the talented fourth-grader walked onto the stage, she appeared to be stepping straight out of the 1930s. Her accessories—a gray, close-fitting hat with a fake white rose, a blue boa, gaudy stockings and a strand of pearls—certainly wouldn’t have brought any fashion awards her way.
But the pretty little girl wasn’t seeking this kind of recognition. She had her sights set on another goal.
As she started to belt out her sad predicament with a Boston twang, the reason for her unique get-up became clear:
Father has a business, strictly secondhand, she vocalized, then revealed the details, . . .even things I’m wearing, someone wore before. . . .I’m wearing secondhand hats, secondhand clothes, That’s why they call me Secondhand Rose.
Furthermore, to add insult to injury, even “Rose’s” romance was tainted: Jake the plumber, he’s the man I adore, had the nerve to tell me he’s been married before!
The sad, lyrical tale wowed both the audience and the judges; and Betsy Waller’s “secondhand” entry garnered her a firsthand trophy in Marlow’s 2005 Showcase of Stars.
Fast-forward eight years to Betsy’s senior year at Marlow High School. Unsurprisingly, she’s still singing. . .and still collecting honors with her stellar voice.
Betsy is a four-year member of the All-State honor choir and five-year member of the southwest All-Region honor choir; and she has received superior ratings on her vocal solos at OSSAA district and state competitions every year since seventh grade.
Betsy sings second soprano and alto with her school’s show choir, the Entertainers; and she helps lead the praise-and-worship service for her church’s youth group gatherings.
Since her freshman year, she has been teaching herself to play the acoustic guitar and is beginning to feel confident and comfortable with the art.
“It’s been a long road,” she confided. “There’s so much to learn.” Although she has acquired a great deal of knowledge and expertise already, she confessed that the end of the road is still somewhere on the horizon. She is also basically self-taught on the keyboard.
Moreover, Betsy has written several songs, primarily worship numbers and love songs, she said.
Just as her past did and her present does, Betsy’s future revolves around music, as well.
She plans to carry a double major in college. Vocal performance is a given, and the other major—well, she hasn’t decided yet.
She has auditioned at OU and Oral Roberts University in Tulsa for acceptance into those schools’ vocal music programs, as well as for scholarships to help her pursue her dream.
If she ultimately attends ORU, her degree will be in the worship arts, rather than vocal performance, and she will have opportunities for participation in mission work, she said.
Marlow’s legendary Joe Dial, a personal friend of the Waller family, is head track coach at ORU; and Betsy predicts if she settles on the Tulsa school, she will likely be a track manager.
But first and foremost, worship, and music’s role in it, are her primary interests.
“That’s where my heart is,” she attested.
Young whirlwind
Betsy Grace Waller first exercised her vocal chords on October BIG SMILE 1, 1994, in Duncan when her parents, Keith and Shelli Waller, and her older siblings, Cassi and Abe, welcomed her into the world.
Betsy’s parents are divorced, and she lives with her mom. Keith lives in Lawton and works for Goodyear, and Shelli is a kindergarten teacher at Bray.
Betsy is deeply rooted in Marlow; her grandparents, Dent and Karen Gibson, and Audrey Shearer, all live here.
She has gone to local schools throughout her education, and she lives in a house that she says is “older than Marlow—literally.”
In grade school, she played basketball through Upward Bound at FBC, and later middle school basketball, but soon dropped out of the program because she didn’t want to risk having conflicts with her musical pursuits and church involvement, she said.
Betsy tried track and pole vaulting. She didn’t like the latter and was a mediocre runner who might have stuck with track “if I had won stuff,” she quipped.
She was active in speech/drama as a freshman and sophomore. Both years, she was a regional qualifier in dramatic duet and standard oratory, and at one time served as student director for the department’s children’s theatre. But eventually, conflicts with her music and church interests persuaded her to discontinue this pursuit.
In fact, Betsy doesn’t let much come between her and her music. She secured a spot on the varsity cheerleading squad for her sophomore year, “but after tryouts, my voice was hoarse for well over a month,” she recalled. “I decided to quit because the stress on my voice was too much.”
One of Betsy’s strongest suits is academics. During her high school career, she has been named outstanding, math, English, history and Spanish student on Outlaw Achievement Day. She carries a 4.0 grade-point average, scored 28 on the ACT and 1,720 on the SAT, and is a member of the National Honor Society.
A member of the Chickasaw nation, she has also been inducted into the Chickasaw Honor Club. She is founder and president of her school’s American Indian Society and coordinated an assembly in 2011 that featured a Native-American storyteller and a Chickasaw dance troupe.
Betsy was a finalist in the 2012 QuestBridge National College Match and semifinalist in last year’s Coca-Cola Scholarship competition.
She has served as vice-president of her class since her sophomore year and prom committee vice-president as a junior. Her freshman year, she served as a page for Rep. Eric Proctor in the state legislature.
The 18-year-old’s community service efforts include assisting with food drives, both locally and at church, and helping with elementary classes at Bray-Doyle and at Jackson Elementary in Lawton.
She has provided after-school childcare for 7-year-old Payton Edie for several years and has held part-time jobs at various businesses.
Personal time
Leisure activities include writing, reading “when I can,” listening to music and watching TV. She has kept a journal of her life, she said, and she enjoys writing lyrics for songs, as well. Her favorite musical group is Hillsong United out of Australia, and she prefers television fare like Glee and Raising Hope. . .and of course, soaking up episodes of SpongeBob with Payton.
At the moment, she is involved in fundraising efforts toward a mission trip she plans to take this summer through Global Expeditions.
At Ray of Hope Church, she is a leader of the Breakthrough teen program’s pre-service prayer team and serves on the drama and film teams.
Looking ahead
With the completion of her high school studies just around the corner, Betsy has launched an intensive quest for scholarships to help her continue her education.
In addition to her applications for financial assistance through OU and ORU, she has submitted an application to the prestigious Gates Millenium Scholarship program. She was informed last week that of the 54,000 apps that had been received, hers was one of only 2,000 still being considered.
She also recently received word that she had been accepted to prestigious Dartmouth College, an Ivy League school in New Hampshire. However, at this time, she remains undecided about her educational future.
Betsy noted that her three most cherished interests are God, family and music—in that order. It should come as no surprise to those who know her if she someday uses her exceptional voice in service to her Lord.