CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — At 16 years old, Walsh Jesuit junior Emyrson Flora is making her hometown proud after she sang “Lovely” by Billie Eilish, a performance that advanced her to the top 10 of American Idol this week. For someone who only sang for fun and never having joined the choir at her high school, people in her life like her school counselor since freshmen year, Philip Bokovitz, couldn’t be more proud of her growth.
“I’m very proud of everything she's accomplished. And I can only imagine what she's going through because this isn't the most natural thing for her. She's developing how to do this as she goes. She's learning how to do it as she goes,” said Bokovitz.
Bokovitz said he knows Emyrson, who is referred to by students and staff as Emmy, played piano and sang, but not to the extent he sees every week on national television.
“It’s kind of shocking,” he said about her ability to sing in front of so many, especially since she has always nervously turned down choir classes.
“She is now signed up for choir next year because I told her there's no way we can allow an American Idol contestant not to be in the choir as a senior,” he said.
In the early stages of the competition when she came back from auditions in LA, Flora told Bokovitz that other contestants had experience performing in front of audiences for years, an experience she said she didn't have when she started. But her raw talent makes up for her lack of on-stage experience, something that hasn’t stopped her from capturing the hearts of millions.
“I also think that that's why America likes her and that's why people like her is because she's kind of genuine. She's young and she relates to a lot of teenagers out there who have the same dreams,” he said.
If Flora is nervous on stage, she isn’t showing it. The 16-year-old is already holding herself like a pro, and Bokowitz hopes she continues to learn and take advantage of the mentorship from accomplished musical artists.
“I’m hoping that all the coaching that she's getting through all the judges and other vocal coaches, I think she's just absorbing it all in. And so when someone tells her one little thing about how to handle herself on stage, she takes it to heart,” he said.
Hometown pride runs deep in Northeast Ohio, and Bokovitz hopes Flora can feel the support of her city.
“Northeast Ohio is really behind her and supporting her. And I hope everyone continues to do that and make sure you vote,” he said. Through announcements reminding students to vote to tracking her performances on the school's social media, Bokovitz said the school and students are behind her.
After her performances on Sunday or Monday, it’s not uncommon to hear Flora’s voice being played by the students walking through the halls.
Beyond the emotional support, her teachers at Walsh Jesuit are making sure she doesn’t miss a beat in the classroom either.
“An hour and a half before she was live on the show yesterday [Monday], she was doing trigonometry homework with her classroom tutor out there,” Bokovitz said.
From Northeast Ohio to Los Angeles, her journey to the big stage has been fun to watch.
"It's kind of taken a lot of people here by surprise that she's able to do this. And at the level she's doing it at, with the lack of training that she's had like this is all self-taught up until she started this," he said.
The next episode of American Idol airs on Sunday, May 1 on News 5.
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