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Amherst Middle School student Seth Johnson (left) juggles a scarf with classmate Jarvis Hamlett during a talent showcase event at the school Feb. 7. Earlier in the night, Johnson performed a juggling act while Hamlett played ‘Carol of the Bells’ on piano.

Amherst Middle School eighth-grader Lacoda Lynch idolizes Johnny Cash and has learned more than a dozen of the late iconic singer’s classics.

Wearing all black in honor of his favorite artist, Lynch greeted a packed auditorium at the school last Thursday with the artist’s famous catchphrase: “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”

Then he sang “Won’t Back Down” by the late Tom Petty, a song Lacoda said he relates to, and at one point held the guitar high on his shoulder as Cash often did during performances.

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His father, Larry Lynch, said his son practices regularly and has impersonated Cash at several festivals in West Virginia. Lacoda describes Cash as an inspirational influence.

“I like his deep voice,” Lacoda said.

Lacoda’s impersonation was among a series of performances and talents on full display during Amherst Middle’s first student showcase. During the presentation, students had audience members cheering and clapping along with drum solos and songs performed by a variety of artists, among other acts.

Principal J. Kelly Holmes, Jr. said the school has many talented students and the showcase was a platform to share those talents.

“Our teachers, our students, we’ve all been working hard to make this happen,” said Holmes. “We’re very, very proud of them.”

Students had artwork on display throughout the school and in the cafeteria, where gatherers enjoyed various booths displaying individual students’ talents following the onstage show.

Holmes said some of that artwork could end up in museums or media productions.

“We’re going to be able to look out and say, ‘Wow, that student went to Amherst Middle School,’” Holmes said.

The evening had plenty of laughs and smiles. A group of seventh-grade band students called The Percussion Trubanets played “I Want It That Way,” a 1999 song by The Backstreet Boys.

Grayson Dowdy, wearing a suit and red tie while introducing performers alongside student Sameria Lambeth, quipped the school band’s song choice was “before our time.”

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Seventh-grade band students at Amherst Middle School perform "I Want It That Way," a 1999 song by The Backstreet Boys. 

After performing a dance number from the Disney film “Moana,” student Hannah Jacynyk immediately hugged a supporter in the crowd.

Three students drummed on buckets to British rock band Queen’s “We Will Rock You” as the audience merrily clapped along.

Amherst County School Board Mike Henderson attended the showcase and mingled with students who discussed their talents, including Spyke Hunt, an archer.

“It was fantastic,” Henderson said of the showcase, adding: “A lot of talent.”

Luke Reed, a student who played a guitar solo from Pearl Jam’s “Yellow Ledbetter,” afterward showed gatherers a guitar he personally made.

Tristan Wood, a seventh-grader showing his artwork, said he wants to become an artist and an animator.

“It’s relaxing and it calms me down and it’s fun,” Tristan said of his drawings. “I love it. My whole world revolves around art. I don’t know what I would do without it.”

Beth Wood, his mother, said Tristan is dedicated to his talent.

“He does it all the time,” she said. “Art is definitely in his future … That’s his passion. It always has been.”

Photos: Amherst Middle School Student Showcase

Contact Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551 or

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