The stage was set. Hundreds of students were gathered for the April 7 Georgetown Program Board Spring Kickoff Concert in McDonough Gymnasium. Larry Calloway, a Georgetown University Transportation Service bus driver who has worked at Georgetown for about seven months, felt butterflies in his stomach as he waited to take the stage. As soon as he stepped in front of the crowd, however, his nerves melted away.
“When I stepped on stage, it was like all that nervousness just went away. It was like, this is where I’m supposed to be,” Calloway said.
As he sang, he felt the crowd’s positive energy and joy. It was the experience of a lifetime that Calloway would love to repeat.
“To feel what they were receiving from this gift that God has given me, it made me feel like I was doing what my gift intended for me to do,” Calloway said. “It made me feel wonderful. I’ve never felt something like that before in my life. I want to do it again.”
Calloway’s performance was made possible by the student group Unsung Heroes, which seeks to recognize workers at Georgetown on social media. The organization worked with GPB to add Calloway to the list of performing artists at the Spring Kickoff Concert, joining artists including Matoma and the Cheat Codes.
“I often lead devotional services at my church, but I don’t believe there are as many as there were there at the Spring Kickoff Concert,” Calloway said. “I had never performed in front of hundreds of people before.”
Calloway first began singing at the age of five, when he prayed for God to bless him with a gift that would help others.
“While I was praying, a song came to me — ‘this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.’ And when I got up off my knees, I just started singing it with such passion and I’ve been singing ever since,” Calloway said.
Calloway said he finds himself singing almost everywhere, from the grocery store to the bus he drives on his GUTS route to DuPont Circle. He even sometimes responds with a song in conversation.
“I sing every day. Every day. As a matter of fact, I can’t drive unless I sing,” Calloway said.
When Calloway feels a song rising in his heart, he said, he cannot hold it in. He has to sing.
“I can’t describe it. It feels almost like an out-of-body experience. It feels like I’m no longer myself. It just feels like being in the presence of God,” Calloway said.
Calloway said he takes great joy in singing to the passengers on his bus — passengers who show their appreciation in a number of ways. One woman gave him a candy bar because she loved his singing, according to Calloway. But for Calloway, the greatest reward for his singing is seeing the smiles he brings to students’ faces.
“Singing has a power in itself,” Calloway said. “It can heal, it can uplift, it can encourage. It can bring someone from a bad state of thought to a good state of thought. It’s relaxing.”
In the same way singing brings happiness to his passengers, so it has helped Calloway in his own life, particularly as he fights recently diagnosed colon cancer.
Calloway had troubles with his colon for about 10 years, but had never found the time to get it thoroughly checked. Calloway said it was the spirit of God that moved him to make the appointment with his doctor last February, just as it had moved him to start singing decades earlier.
Two weeks after the appointment, a test for cancer came back positive. After discussing plans for future testing with his doctor, Calloway looked for peace through prayer.
“I found peace in my heart after the praying because the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘The reason why I gave you the dream to go get this done was so that this thing will not do what it had intended to do,’” Calloway said.
According to Calloway, it was a combination of his faith and singing that helped get him through the challenges and fear he faced after he found out that he had cancer.
“Singing with more of a zeal than I ever had,” Calloway said. “Just meditating and singing. That’s getting me through. That’s gotten me through before, so why wouldn’t it get me through this?”
After his first large public performance at the spring concert, Calloway dreams of projecting his voice even further.
“I want to sing so that it touches the world,” Calloway said. “Where the spirit of God comes upon me, whatever song that is, that it reaches the world and people feel God from that song. You know, the tears flow and the heart is uplifted. That’s my greatest wish: to sing a song that uplifts the world.”
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