Quincy native sings during White House Hanukkah celebration

Posted: Jan. 5, 2013 3:03 pm Updated: Jan. 19, 2013 8:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Irving Schwartz has never heard his son, Jeremy, sing, but President Barrack Obama has.

Jeremy and his fellow choir members at the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir greeted White House guests with traditional Jewish holiday songs and a few West Point tunes during the sixth evening of the Hanukkah. After the guests arrived, the president personally thanked the choir and the group sang "Rock of Ages" for the commander and chief during a private audience.

"It was very intimidating getting ready for it, but when we were actually there it was a really exciting event," Jeremy said.

When Jeremy, 22, enrolled at West Point this autumn, he joined the choir as an extracurricular activity. Until attending choir rehearsals, Jeremy had only listened to music and never performed.

"It kind of just comes natural," Jeremy said. "It's something that I probably should have pursued earlier in life."

His father said the family was shocked, but delighted, that Jeremy had joined the choir.

Jeremy's younger sisters have shown talent in music, but he had never vocalized an interest. Despite the lack of a musical background, Jeremy said he blends in with the other voices well. He described the weekly rehearsals as a welcoming and an opportunity for learning about music.

"It's not a very competitive environment there," Jeremy said. "It's very community based it's very friendly."

The West Point plebe said several well-known faces, such as Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, two supreme court justices and several Cabinet members, heard the choir during the Hanukkah reception but that didn't disrupt their music. The ballroom and the hallways were adorned with holiday decorations, and the official titles weren't as prominent as in a political setting.

"There were quite a few famous people that we saw at the White House," Jeremy said. "They look much more like real people when they don't have subtitles under their names."

While Irving seemed excited about his son's new hobby, that delight took second to his Jeremy's service. Before enrolling at West Point, Jeremy served three years in the military. He was stationed with the 82nd airborne division at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and completed a tour in Iraq.

"It's amazing the respect that they gives the men and women in the military at this time," his father said. "The status that these guys have, I'm really impressed."

Irving said the military lifestyle has expanded his son's academic ambitions just like it's jolted an interest in music. Since going back to school, Jeremy has latched onto a passion for chemistry and may declare that as his major. Now he's home for the holidays but preparing for another successful semester at West Point.

"It's been a great experience for him being there in all respects," Irving said.