Line­man the voice of CU’s team

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By El­iz­a­beth Her­nan­dez Daily Cam­era Cliff Grass­mick, Daily Cam­era

BOUL­DER» Univer­sity of Colorado offensive line­man Chance Ly­tle knows bet­ter than any­one else that the acous­tics in the Buffs’ locker room show­ers are fan­tas­tic.

As beads of sweat dripped off the 19-yearold’s blond locks af­ter a Wed­nes­day morn­ing prac­tice, Ly­tle fid­dled with his foot­ball hel­met while pro­fess­ing his ad­mi­ra­tion for Bach com­po­si­tions.

He is pur­su­ing a bach­e­lor of arts de­gree in mu­sic with a con­cen­tra­tion in voice per­for­mance.

“Sports and mu­sic are most im­por­tant to me,” Ly­tle said. “But mu­sic al­ways had that spe­cial place in my heart. It’s al­ways the thing I’ve en­joyed most.”

Ly­tle has been mak­ing mu­sic since he was a young boy, singing songs with his fam­ily be­fore bed­time.

In­spired by his dad, a pi­anist, he said he got it in his head when he was a kid that he wanted to play the pi­ano bet­ter than his fa­ther. When he was of­fered vi­o­lin lessons as a fifth-grader, Ly­tle jumped at the chance. “I fell in love,” he said. Ly­tle’s love af­fair with mu­sic crescen­doed as the Texan learned to play the cello, pi­ano and man­dolin.

Along the way, Ly­tle’s bas­ket­ball-fa­natic mom spurred him to start shoot­ing hoops when he was in elementary school.

In sev­enth grade, Ly­tle caught the eye of his school’s foot­ball coach. Though in­dif­fer­ent to the sport, he joined the team.

“I didn’t know the name of a sin­gle NFL team,” he said. “But it turns out, I was very good at it.”

Ly­tle was al­ways big­ger and taller than ev­ery­one else in his class. When his bas­ket­ball team­mates started get­ting leaner as he “thick­ened,” he said it was clear he was bet­ter suited for foot­ball. Oth­ers agreed.

Ly­tle was named the San An­to­nio co-offensive line­man of the year as a high school se­nior.

Ly­tle joined the Buffs in Jan­uary. When he came to CU, he planned to au­di­tion for the Col­lege of Mu­sic’s or­ches­tra, but a foot­ball­re­lated shoul­der in­jury ren­dered him un­able to wield his bow with his arm in a sling.

De­ter­mined to get into the mu­sic col­lege one way or an­other, Ly­tle knew his only chance was to sing.

“I thought I would just au­di­tion and sing to get in and then switch to or­ches­tra later,” he said.

The foot­ball player, who had never learned a clas­sic or op­er­atic song in his life, had five months to get his pipes in shape to belt it out loud and proud. He learned two songs — one an Ital­ian aria — and sang his way into the Col­lege of Mu­sic.

“I ended up lov­ing it,” Ly­tle said.

Pa­trick Ma­son helped Ly­tle hone his craft as his voice pro­fes­sor last year.

“His mu­si­cian­ship skills are higher than a lot of fresh­men’s were,” Ma­son said.

Ma­son de­scribed Ly­tle as a per­son­able, con­sid­er­ate young man with a big, bass­bari­tone voice.

“His singing voice is very rich, and he has a good, deep, low voice,” Ma­son said.

In class, when groups of stu­dents gather to per­form for each other, Ma­son said the sit­u­a­tion can be in­tim­i­dat­ing and make them feel vul­ner­a­ble, but Ly­tle al­ways comes through with con­sid­er­ate com­ments to give.

“He’s very dis­ci­plined about his work,” Ma­son said. “He’s com­ing along great.”

Ly­tle’s team­mates at CU reap the ben­e­fits too.

Ly­tle some­times leads the crew in song, such as a group ren­di­tion of “Lean on Me.” He cov­ets the team show­ers for prac­tice space.

“They don’t give me any grief about it,” Ly­tle said. “They know that I’m a good singer, and this is what I do.”

When team­mate Colby Pursell heard Ly­tle could sing, he said he needed to hear it for him­self.

“We said, ‘Let’s hear it,’ and he let it rip, and it was ac­tu­ally re­ally good,” Pursell said. “I have no idea what it was. It was opera some­thing.”

Off the field, Ly­tle ap­pre­ci­ates that his mu­si­cal class­mates treat him like a stu­dent first and an ath­lete sec­ond. Back in Texas, he said peo­ple based his whole ex­is­tence on the fact that he was a foot­ball player, but he hasn’t found that cul­ture in Boul­der.

“I’m not just a brute who hap­pens to be singing on the side,” Ly­tle said. “They know that here.”

Leg­ends such as Lu­ciano Pavarotti, whom Ly­tle only re­cently learned about, in­spire him. Mod­ern artists such as Adele and Bren­don Urie are vo­cal role mod­els. In his free time, Ly­tle likes to lis­ten to bands such as alt-J and the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers.

Bal­anc­ing foot­ball and singing can get tricky. Foot­ball prac­tice ends at 11 a.m. Ly­tle tries to prac­tice singing for at least an hour a day on his own, out­side of school-re­lated de­mands.

“Both hold me to the same stan­dard,” he said. “I learned from a young age that if you want to de­velop and get bet­ter at some­thing, you have to prac­tice.”

The foot­ball player sees mu­sic notes in his fu­ture.

Although he’s not cer­tain ex­actly what he wants to do, Ly­tle is con­sid­er­ing stick­ing with per­for­mance and mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

He hopes that by be­ing him­self, he can help break stereo­types about peo­ple in the arts and ath­letes.

“Peo­ple just don’t know what ath­letes are like,” Ly­tle said. “We’re all stu­dents. We all have dreams. Some of those dreams might be to go play pro­fes­sion­ally, but many aren’t. Maybe speak to an ath­lete be­fore as­sum­ing.”

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