Just by looking at April May Webb as she?s running groceries through the scanner at North Dillons in Newton, patrons can tell she?s happy and full of life.
What they can?t see in the checkout lane is the 22-year-old college student?s love of music.
The Dillons employee, a senior this fall at Paterson University in New Jersey, readily admits she is passionate about music and that it helps her express herself.
?I feel like everyone has a way to express themselves, and music is a lot like my outlet,? she said. ?Whether I?m expressing something sad or happy, I can fully express myself through music. Every time I perform, I treat it like a journey or storyline.?
Webb works at North Dillons when she?s on her summer break from college. Each of the songs for which she has written music and lyrics has a chronological order that reflects her life, she said.
Webb?s first CD, called ?It?s All About You,? has a song with the same name. This album was released in 2012. That song is about finding someone special and thinking he is a wonderful person, only to realize this person was not who he said he was and that everything was about him.
Another of her songs, called ?Chance of a Lifetime,? is happier, she said.
Webb?s second CD, performed with her group, April May Meets Eternity, was released in May. Both albums can be downloaded on iTunes. The group performs a fusion of jazz, and rhythm and blues. Including Webb, there are five people in the band, which rotates members.
?So there?s a lot of people circulating,? Webb said.
Before she came back to the area, the North Newton resident and the band had many gigs in New York and New Jersey, which are their base areas. They play at a various locales, including clubs, restaurants, lounges and showcases. As of mid-June, they were booking gigs for August and September. Webb said her CDs are selling well, and she sells most of them when performing.
?Anybody who wants us, we?ll go play,? Webb said.
Webb?s performances aren?t limited to New York and New Jersey; she?s also performed at Karen?s Kitchen in Newton.
Webb?s passion for music carries over into her studies at Paterson, where she?s majoring in music education.
?Actually, an education degree is a backup plan,? Webb said. ?My primary plan is to be a performer.?
Webb has been performing for a number of years now. When she was ?little,? she and her musically talented brothers, Jacob and Nathan, formed a band called Webb 3. All did vocals, and each played an instrument with April on?piano, Nathan on drums and Jacob on bass.
?Music has just been a part of my immediate family,? Webb said.
The Webb children all have a talent for music, and Webb said her mother, Felicia, used to play the piano while her father, Stanley, didn?t play an instrument. Webb thinks, however, her grandfather also used to tickle the ivories.
Webb followed in the footsteps of her mother and grandfather, starting piano lessons when she was in the third grade and taking voice lessons beginning in the eighth grade.
Webb said one of her major influences was her first private vocal teacher, Karla Burns of Wichita, who had performed music theater on Broadway in New York City and did a one-person production show of ?Hat Not Hattie? at the Orpheum in Wichita.
?She really talked about control and diction and pronunciation,? Webb said. ?She had a lot of different ? her own ? teaching ways.?
While attending Newton High School, Webb was involved in band, choir and full orchestra, where she played clarinet. She also used her performing talents during musicals, as she was a cast member all four years in high school. Musicals she was in were ?Fiddler on the Roof,? ?Schoolhouse Rock,? ?High School Musical? and ?Footloose.?
In college, Webb?s favorite class has been ensembles with a pianist, bassist, drummer and someone playing a horned instrument while she sang. The class meets two times a week. Webb also had the opportunity to study with Mulgrew Miller, a legendary jazz pianist,?who passed away in May, Webb said.
?It was a shock,? said Webb, who basically has lived in North Newton her entire life. ?He had a stroke. He was 56.?
While she?s in North Newton for the summer, Webb can?t stay away from music. She?s pianist and minister of music at the church she attends, Second Baptist Church in Newton.
Webb has tried her hand at writing a spiritual song, called ?Inseparable.?
?It?s about in life when people try to distract you from Christ and how nothing can really separate you from the love of God through Christ Jesus,? Webb said.
Webb wrote the song about her experience in going to New Jersey and how she innocently trusted people who ended up leading her astray ? how she kind of lost herself and then returned to Christ.
Webb does enjoy performing.
?Performing, I feel like that is one place I feel the most comfortable, and it gives me the most joy on the stage.?
As of mid-June, Webb and her brother, Jacob, were working on a country CD.
?We?ll see how that turns out,? Webb said, laughing.
Jacob has produced her two CDs.
Not only does Webb perform music, she listens to it, as well. Her favorite rock band is OneRepublic, and she enjoys listening to jazz, R&B, gospel and contemporary rock. One of her favorite songs is ?Lesson Learned? by Alicia Keys.
For performers wanting to get into the music scene and get CDs out there, Webb advised them to go to Los Angeles or New York ?because they?re big on music scenes,? and go to jam sessions, where they can make music connections. Webb met a lot of people in her group and other people she?s played with at jam sessions. She said she plans to stay in New Jersey after graduation and follow her passion.
She advised others to follow their interests as well.
?Live ?til you can?t live no more as far as doing the things you are most passionate about and going extremely hard until you can?t anymore,? Webb said.
Photos and Story by?Wendy Nugent