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Music Journeys: Deshawn Goncalves Shines On American Idol

Apr 16, 2021

Deshawn Goncalves has been moving us all with his performances on American Idol. Here on Music Journeys, Goncalves will share what the experience has been like so far and reflect on his time with the Paragon Project.

Goncalves also offers some advice for all the young artists out there that love to sing but have fears about performing. Thanks for listening. *Update - Goncalves earned a spot in the Top 9 Sunday April 18.  

Ohio native Deshawn Goncalves finds himself in American Idol's Top 12 following a string of performances that moved judges and fans.

Part of Goncalves' performance of Higher Ground courtesy of American Idol and Fremantle

That's part of his most recent performance after making Idol's Top Ten fan vote. He may make it look easy now, but Goncalves had to overcome a fear of performing and encouraged other aspiring artists to do the same.  

"I think that's something that a lot of people struggle with just generally," Goncalves said during a Zoom session with Music Journeys this week. "Looking at an obstacle, and I guess being shy and the whole stage fright thing. It took a very long time for me to gain the confidence in myself and really believe I could do it. So to be doing it is kind of surreal. I would tell them to trust themselves and just simply do it, because if you just sit around, you'll never get anywhere. You just have to throw yourself out there and try your best. I just keep that mentality in life. When you see something that you want, just go out and grab it and just run with it."   

Goncalves relishes the feedback from the American Idol judges, which include Lionel Richie. In fact, Goncalves' audition moved the legendary singer to tears. 

Part of Goncalves' audition courtesy of American Idol and Fremantle

A couple weeks later, he provided this spin on a Judy Garland classic.

Part of Goncalves' Over The Rainbow performance courtesy of American Idol and Fremantle

"Being out here and doing what I've always dreamed just feels amazing," Goncalves reflected. "Above all things I'm just really grateful that I'm actually here and doing it. We rehearse pretty much every day for about two hours. If I need to work on something more, I'll do that in the hotel and just drill it a little bit."

Goncalves isn't superstitious, but he does have a routine before showtime.   

"I just like to talk to my family before I go on stage," Goncalves continued. "I also take some time to myself to think. I have a conversation with God and ask him to carry me through and to take away the nerves and just let me deliver what I know I can. I have these conversations with myself. I just tell myself that it's going to be what it's going to be, and what's meant for me will be. I repeat that to myself even more in those moments to just stay calm and be ready for whatever comes." 

Born in Youngstown and residing in Cleveland for a while, Goncalves moved to Columbus for his middle school and high school years. The 2019 East High School graduate also took part in the Fort Hayes-based Paragon Project, where students write and record their own songs. We first met Goncalves through the project's founder and director, Fort Hayes assistant principal Dr. Tony Anderson, after Paragon's third full length release   

"Their ultimate goal is for their music to be respected and listened to with the same ears as you listen to something else, the only difference being the content," Anderson told us back in 2019. "So, yes it is made at a school. Yes, it is a group of teens. But at one point, Ray Charles was a teen musician. Stevie Wonder was a teen musician. Michael Jackson was a teen musician. So there are people out there with those kinds of talents. We're just fortunate to have a lot of them at Fort Hayes. Now I'm not saying that they are the next Michael Jackson, but you never know."

Time Is A Teacher plays...

"My name is Deshawn Goncalves, and I'm a senior here at Fort Hayes," Goncalves told us back in 2019 upon the Paragon 3 Note to Self that included his song. "My song, Time is a Teacher, addressed a feeling that I believe that everyone has had at a point in their life of feeling no hope and feeling down. So I wrote the song to let people know that through time, things will eventually be alright. So basically keep going, and then you'll start to see the brighter side of every situation."   

Reflecting on the Paragon with us this week from California following a rehearsal, Goncalves expressed gratitude as the experience helps him in the Idol competition. 

"The Paragon gave me a platform to do what I do," Goncalves recalled. "I had the opportunity to work with other students who were involved with the arts and that just made me better. I needed that grounding when I was still in school so that when I got to these bigger stages, I would know how to navigate them better. When I recorded Time is a Teacher, that was my first time actually recording a record. So when I meet with producers, I know what to do because I had that experience."

Goncalves also has high praise for Anderson.

"He's been such a huge part in me developing as an artist," Goncalves said. "He sees things in children, and he knows just what to do to bring things out of them to make them great. He really pushed me to be better with my craft. Before I would put certain things off and just not believe that I could do certain things. He would say I see it, you've got it, and I need you to use it. So he's really been a blessing in my life."

As he prepares for the next competition, Goncalves will keep it simple - just be himself and sing. Goncalves and the other contestants will perform Oscar-nominated songs in hopes of securing a spot into American Idol's top nine Sunday night.