Suc­cess­ful Satur­day

The Soon­ers and Cow­boys im­prove po­si­tion­ing in Big 12 stand­ings.

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - Jenni Carl­son jcarl­son@ ok­la­

Only a few days be­fore play­ing for the 2000 na­tional cham­pi­onship, Josh Nor­man dis­cov­ered his pas­sion.

He had played football all his life. First as a kid in Mid­land, Texas. Then at Ok­la­homa where he was an in­te­gral part of Bob Stoops' early years. He would even spend a cou­ple sea­sons in the NFL.

But when Nor­man went home to Texas dur­ing a break in ti­tlegame prep, a friend let him per­form, record and pro­duce a song.

"And I fell in love," Nor­man said. "The first time that I got a taste of

it, I was like, 'Oh, yeah, this is what I want to do.'"

Football was his first love, but mu­sic was his life's work.

And he wants to help kids dis­cover a pas­sion for mu­sic, too.

Nor­man is head­lin­ing a con­cert Fri­day night that will ben­e­fit The Bridge Im­pact Youth Cen­ter. The out­reach pro­gram on Ok­la­homa City’s north­east side wants to build a stu­dio that be­comes a learn­ing lab for kids, giv­ing them a chance to see if they have a heart for mu­sic and pro­vid­ing an op­por­tu­nity that might change their life.

That’s what mu­sic did for Nor­man.

Even as he was grow­ing up in football-crazy Texas, mu­sic had a place in Nor­man’s life. His grand­mother’s pi­ano al­ways drew him like a mag­net, and he would tin­ker on it ev­ery time he went to her house.

He was fas­ci­nated by the sounds, the com­bi­na­tions, ev­ery­thing.

Lis­ten­ing to mu­sic be­came not just a hobby but a study.

Nor­man would spend hours lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, dis­sect­ing the lyrics and an­a­lyz­ing the struc­ture.

He wasn't lis­ten­ing like you lis­ten when you clean the house or road trip to the in-laws'.

"I still have note­books and note­books full of songs that I tran­scribed," he said. "I wanted to know what the lyrics were say­ing. I wanted to see how they were writ­ing the lyrics, how they were form­ing the songs."

Some­time in mid­dle school, Nor­man started writ­ing po­etry, and when he went to OU and took some for­mal pi­ano les­sons, he be­gan to marry the po­etry and the mu­sic.

Then came that ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the ti­tleprep break.

From then on, Nor­man knew that he wanted to make mu­sic his life. Sure, he wanted to see how far he could go in football -- he played a hy­brid role for the Soon­ers, catch­ing and car­ry­ing the ball and even mak­ing a big blocked punt in that mem­o­rable OU-Ne­braska game in 2000 -- but even football

be­came a con­duit to power his pas­sion for mu­sic.

His bonus money when he signed with the San Diego Charg­ers?

He used it to buy equip­ment for his bud­ding in­ter­est in mu­sic pro­duc­tion.

And when his pro days were done, Nor­man threw him­self fur­ther into mu­sic. He adopted the name J.Lee The Pro­ducer. He im­mersed him­self in the Chris­tian mu­sic scene.

Last month, he re­lease the al­bum “Mu­sic Box.”

While look­ing at venues around Ok­la­homa City for an al­bum re­lease party, Nor­man found him­self at The Au­di­to­rium at The Dou­glass. It is a historic site at the old Dou­glass High School on the city’s north­east side – and Nor­man couldn’t help think­ing about his friend Mar­cus Jack­son.

Known in the Chris­tian mu­sic world as Kadence, Jack­son founded The Bridge Im­pact Youth Cen­ter to over­come the gaps in an un­der­served com­mu­nity. It pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for ed­u­ca­tion and path­ways to em­ploy­ment.

Nor­man loves what

The Bridge is do­ing and asked if he could help. When Jack­son men­tioned that he’d al­ways wanted to add a mu­sic stu­dio to the youth cen­ter, Nor­man was in.

A ben­e­fit con­cert at The Au­di­to­rium at The Dou­glass was born.

"It’s just creat­ing those op­por­tu­ni­ties and those open doors," Nor­man said. "If they get in it and they say, 'Nah, this is hor­ri­ble,' let's go to the next thing.

"But I think as men­tors for our youth, we have to be in­ten­tional about pro­vid­ing these op­por­tu­ni­ties."

Josh Nor­man knows he had a on-ramps to op­por­tu­nity that lots of kids don’t have. He con­sid­ers him­self lucky. He con­sid­ers him­self blessed.

Fri­day night, he hopes to pay it for­ward by rais­ing some money and paving some ways where none may even ex­ist right now.


Josh Nor­man was a re­ceiver on Ok­la­homa’s 2000 na­tional cham­pi­onship team. Now, he’s a mu­sic pro­ducer and artist who wants kids to ex­pe­ri­ence all that the mu­sic world has to of­fer.

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