2018 Outstanding Performance winner ‘grateful’ for Lawrence roots as he looks to fulfill California dreams

Graham Edmonds has always been the creative type. His parents, Jason and Machaela, nourished artistic interests in their son from an early age, he says. And Edmonds, now on the eve of his graduation from Lawrence High School, holds onto those memories — of family trips to the movie theater, of his father playing music around the house — to this day.

With the support of his family, Edmonds has been able to realize so many of the dreams he’s had for so long.

In the summer of 2016, he was one of only eight students from across the country to be accepted into the Recording Academy’s GRAMMY camp at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Fast-forward nearly two years, and he’s headed once again to the USC campus, this time as an undergrad.

Still, Edmonds says he won’t forget his Kansas roots when he moves away.

“I’ve been really grateful to live in Lawrence, because I feel like it’s a really great community for the arts, which obviously is a big part of my life and continues to be a big part of my life,” says Edmonds, this year’s Outstanding Performance winner.

At USC, his No. 1 college pick, Edmonds plans to major in music industry and minor in cinematic arts. He’s long been interested in recording-industry jobs, like concert promotion and music production and artist management, but says he’s also exploring the possibility of someday working as a music supervisor for films, or maybe directing music videos.

Over the last few pivotal years of his life, Edmonds has learned there’s not much he can’t do. In 2017, following his summer stint at LA’s Grammy Camp, Edmonds attended New York University’s summer filmmakers’ workshop. He was one of 61 students selected nationwide.

In between, during his junior year at LHS, Edmonds launched “Ovation!”, a districtwide talent show and fundraiser for the Lawrence Schools Foundation. Edmonds originally devised the idea as a capstone project during an internship at the Lied Center earlier that year. The project, which he initially envisioned as a small show in the Lied Center Pavilion, soon moved to the Lied Center’s nearly 2,000-seat auditorium, and Edmonds became its executive producer and master of ceremonies.

Between the 2017 and 2018 iterations, Edmonds estimates the shows have raised about $10,000 for the Lawrence Schools Foundation, including sponsorship money from local businesses.

“One of the coolest things for me about ‘Ovation!’ is that some of the money that’s going to the foundation is going toward arts education at the schools,” he says.

Edmonds has done a lot in his four years at Lawrence High — varsity letters in debate, cross country and choir come to mind, along with his tenure as student body president and maintaining his perfect 4.0 GPA.

But it’s “Ovation!” and his experiences in Los Angeles and New York City that Edmonds says he’s most proud of.

Juggling the responsibilities of organizing “Ovation!” two years in a row, he says, has shown him “the importance of collaboration and working with other people.” The amount of emailing back and forth with parents and schools during that first year, Edmonds says, really hammered that into him.

But all that hard work, he says, was definitely worth it.

“It just shows that in order for something to be successful, you need that framework in place,” Edmonds says. “If your heart’s not in it, then you’re not going to give your all to it.”


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