HEBRON — Making – and learning – music helped Josh Lajoie of Hebron rescue his junior and senior years of high school. Perhaps no group of students has lost as much during the pandemic as those who find joy in singing. The airborne virus made it impossible for any in person, collaborative singing to take place.

Josh Lajoie of Hebron, competed in Maine’s All States chamber choir his sophomore year. Supplied photo

For Lajoie, singing has always provided him with a creative outlet, but as an introvert he uses it to socialize as well.

“It’s an easy way to get out there,” he said. “To connect with like-minded people.”

Lajoie missed out on competing in Maine’s District 2 and All State level during his senior year. He was set to compete last year until the sessions were cancelled due to COVID-19.

The coronavirus took a toll on Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School’s chamber choir; normally, as many as 80 students take part but this year Lajoie said only about 20 were in the class.

He has been singing since elementary school and with the chamber choir since eighth grade. Even during his first year his teacher encouraged him to compete, although Lajoie held off until he was established in high school to do so.

“You have to try out for District and All States,” Lajoie said. “They give you two days to research a certain song. Then you practice to demonstrate your singing level, like scales and sight singing, and all that.”

“It’s just how creative you can be with it. It’s a really good way to express yourself.”

Josh Lajoie, OHCHS senior, used his time social distancing to teach himself guitar. Supplied photo

When school was closed last March Lajoie was less impacted than others about the harsh social changes brought on by COVID-19. He found music his ticket to get through it, using the time stuck at home to teach himself acoustic guitar.

Some of his favorite music to play is that of Canadian indie pop artist Braden Barrie, who performs under the name SayWeCanFly.

“I knew the basics, but being stuck at home I spent more time each day playing, and singing too,” Lajoie said. “It’s my father’s guitar, even though he’s never really played it. I did try to teach him.”

“Some people just aren’t musical,” laughed Lajoie’s mother Vickie about his dad. “But Josh taught himself, utilizing music theory that he had learned in his junior year. He has written a few songs, including one for me for my 60th birthday.”

Challenging himself musically during the pandemic helped him take a negative situation over which he had no control and turn it into something with a positive outcome. He credits his music as an outlet that helped him maintain good grades during periods of distance learning.

Lajoie also keeps busy honing his chess game and with logic puzzles, the best known being the Rubik’s Cube. He has about 60 of them in different shapes and patterns. Before the pandemic he occasionally participated in Rubik’s Cube regional competitions in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He always placed in the top twenty, with his best finish being sixth.

Josh Lajoie of Hebron participating in a Rubik’s Cube competition. Supplied photo

Those events are on hiatus, but he continues to hone his skills with the cube, noting that his personal best time to solve the well-known 3×3 puzzle is around 7.2 seconds. The world record is something like 3.4 seconds so Lajoie still has some work to do before he conquers the international stage.

In addition to the problem solving involved with logic puzzles, Lajoie is drawn to the problem solving of engineering.

“I’ve always been obsessed with building things and obsessed with outer space,” he said. “You put those two things together, and there you go. Figuring out problems, for example, aerospace engineering is figuring out problems related to designing a rocket that is the most efficient to get into orbit.

“I’d really like to work for NASA as an engineer, or maybe Space X,” the latter being the aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company founded by Elon Musk.

Lojoie’s first stop on his way towards NASA is the University of Maine Orono, where he will major in mechanical engineering. He will add the aerospace track to his studies when he becomes a junior.

Wherever his interest in aerospace and engineering leads him, Lajoie intends to bring his love for music with him.

“Music is important to me for inspiration; many times I will put on headphones to enjoy a variety of musical genres while solving problems,” he wrote of his passion for it in college scholarship essays. “I’ve always been a person who loves strange things that most others wouldn’t, and my musical taste is the same.”


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