JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Saying he was born with it, only does so much. When it comes to Jamison Ross, all you have to do to “get it” is listen.
But even this local 24-year-old, whose sense of cool seems innate, felt that funny feeling in his stomach as he sauntered on stage this weekend at the 25th annual Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition as a semi-finalist.
"Nervous? Very. I mean I walked backstage and my wife gave me a bag of Sweet Tarts and I think I ate the whole bag,” Ross chuckled.
Ross was the last drummer in D.C. to take the stage. But you know the saying, and so did the judges, this contestant seemed saved for last for a reason.
"My head just dropped. I couldn't believe it. I honestly lost my breath because to actually win it is a life changer. It's an overnight life changer,” said Ross.
Ross grew up in Jacksonville playing drums in the left corner of Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church. His grandfather Percy Jackson is the pastor.
"Jamison started playing drums here. He was a small young boy,” Jackson recalled.
His family knew he was born to drum from a pretty early start.
"He wasn't even able to walk and he would crawl, pull up on the table, and beat on it, just beat,” said Ross’s mother Renee Jackson-Stewart.
Jackson-Stewart says putting Ross in a musical program at LaVilla and then Douglas Anderson School of the Arts was an easy choice. The more he played, the more he grew.
"If he was going to do this, I needed him to do it the right way. It didn't come overnight, but hard work paid off,” Jackson-Stewart said.
Behind her smile, is the mother of a son who was just named the winner of arguably one of the biggest jazz contests out there.
"I'm speechless. It hits me every two to three hours that I actually won,” said Ross.
But from the far left corner of the room where it all began, a proud grandfather knows this is only the beginning.
"Just watch him in the future now. He just won a contest, but he's going further. One day they will know Jamison all over this world,” said Jackson smiling.
For winning first place, Ross received a $25,000 scholarship and a guaranteed recording contract with Concord Music Group.