MHS junior doubles up on state

Liz Russell said she was born to sing.

Considering how much time she puts into her craft, it’s apparent she lives to sing as well.

Russell, 17, a junior at Marshalltown High School, has displayed enough talent to qualify for state in both vocal music and speech this school year.

“It’s just a passion,” Russell said of singing.

Reaching state in one field can be tough enough, but being among the best in Iowa in two different areas of interests is rare.

“Liz has a very natural musical talent,” said MHS vocal music director Amy Ose. “Singing just comes easily for her. She picks up new songs very quickly, oftentimes after hearing them just one time.”

While Russell had her sights on all-state music last fall, the speech qualification came at the last minute and as a surprise.

MHS speech coach Julie Bousum had a student back out for a singing entry in state speech. She heard Russell singing in the art room one day and asked if she wanted to enter state. Within a couple of weeks, Russell completed a state-worthy effort, joining the top 2 percent of performers to qualify for state.

“Liz demonstrates a great deal of energy, amazing talent, a non-stop work ethic, and poise,” Bousum said. “It was a privilege to work with her this year.”

One of the keys to Russell’s success is the amount of work she puts into her voice. She spends two hours a day singing, squeezing the time into her busy schedule. She also plays the piano, violin and viola, so she has music grasped from several different angles.

“It’s pretty intense, but it’s something I love,” Russell said of her singing workload.

The student credits the help of her teachers and the support of her parents, Dick and Jewl Russell, for her success.

Jewl Russell said her daughter is very organized and committed to her singing.

“It’s amazing to hear her sing,” Jewl said. “It brings me to tears often.”