Jackie Gray is equally at home behind her piano making music or out on the soccer field making her opponents look silly. RIght, Gray celebrates a goal during McIntosh’s 2014 state championship victory. (Staff Photos by Christopher Dunn)

IMG_8088aFor Jackie Gray, there are two kinds of pitches that are equally important in her life. When she’s not creating havoc on the soccer pitch, you can find her in front of a microphone perfecting her singing pitch. The newly-minted McIntosh grad has already made a name for herself as a key member of the Lady Chiefs soccer program, but Gray also has dreams of making it big as a musician.
As a midfielder, Gray was right at the heart of the success McIntosh has achieved in recent seasons. In fact, it says something about the level of expectations for the program when this year’s quarterfinals exit was considered a letdown. At other schools, that registers as major success. At McIntosh, anything less than a championship is a disappointment.
“It was definitely a trying year,” said Gray, but there was still plenty to be proud of. “We had a lot of younger athletes on the team this year. It was fun getting to know them better. It was a lot of fun leading by example.”
Through the course of the campaign, the team became what they often become, a family.
“The people made it so much better,” said Gray. “We had team dinners, and we would stay after and just hang out. It would get really late sometimes, but it was just a lot of fun. The people really made it a great year.”
This season was just the culmination of a McIntosh career filled with accolades. The returning member of the All-County team has two especially important pieces of hardware in her collection, a pair of state championship rings. Her Lady Chiefs claimed the crown her first year against Whitewater and again last year against Starr’s Mill. That freshman ring was extra sweet because she got to be on the team with her sister, Danielle, who will be lacing up for Ole Miss this fall.
Soccer has paved Jackie’s path to college where she’s signed to be a Kennesaw State Owl this fall, but Gray has another passion she’ll be digging into in her classes. She’ll be studying to lay the foundation for what she hopes will be a lifelong journey into the music industry. The aspiring singer-songwriter will be majoring in business before adding on music business classes. She doesn’t want to make rookie mistakes.
“You hear so many horror stories about management mess-ups, you’ve got to be at least a little bit wise in that area,” said Gray.
She wants to make her living in front of the mike as a performer, but, even if that doesn’t work out, she’ll make sure she stays around the business she loves.
“It would be incredible (to make it as a singer), but I’m staying grounded about it. You can dream as much as you want, but you’ve got to keep your expectations ground level,” she said. “I was thinking, even if I don’t end up singing, I could do songwriting.”
She’s certainly not new to songwriting. She got her start way back in third grade thanks to the encouragement of a teacher. She had written a song, “No one but Jesus,” and shared it with her teacher, Dana Lamb, at Trinity Christian School. She expected a brush off response, but instead Lamb was impressed. The class ended up singing it at a concert the next year. From there, Gray was hooked.
“It was really cool hearing all my peers sing my song.”
She’s been playing the piano since she was six or seven, so she can add an extra layer to that singer-songwriter mold. Artists like Ed Sheerhan, Ingrid Michaelson, and Adele cut a similar sound to the one Gray likes to make, with lyrics a key component. There’s so much you can do with the power of words, and that’s why, if she had to pick, Gray would choose music over soccer.
“I’ve always gone back and forth because either way you can be a role model,” said Gray. “I like that with music you can make more of a difference with how you influence people.”
She’s already been able to make music with a message. Many in the community first learned of her talents when she recorded a song in tribute to Chase Burnett, a beloved classmate who died tragically. There also came a chance to reunite with her former teacher, Dana Lamb, to write a song honoring educators that she has performed two years running at the state’s Teacher of the Year banquet. Gray followed that up by releasing a five-song set on CD and iTunes. It’s a great start to a budding music career.
Whether it’s on the soccer pitch, or writing a song that moves a listener, Jackie Gray will be making an impact. Someday her name will be in lights, but for now her community is proud just to call her one of their own.