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The singer JoJo David (1966–2016)
A campus minister and a leader of the Liturgy Arts Group since 2003, JoJo David died at noon on October 18, 2016. He was 50 and had just undergone cardiac surgery (not his first experience of it) and was clinging to a heart-transplant waiting list.
I met JoJo in 1996, when he was the vocal coach for the BC bOp! jazz ensemble, and my oldest son played piano in the band. JoJo was a delight, a man who encouraged high artistry as well as deep generosity in his students; a man of faith, love, laughter, and of course music. And then in the summer of 1998, at age 33, he was diagnosed with a savage variety of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Over 14 months, while enduring nine rounds of chemo and 28 of radiation and a Hail Mary bone marrow transplant, JoJo sent regular emails to about 160 friends, keeping us informed of his ever-changing circumstances. Each began with “Hello my friends” and delivered the medical news—blood counts, pneumonia, hospitalizations—but always with humor. “If I hear the words ‘Plan B’ one more time, anger will ensue. At last count, we’re actually on Plan G.” It got worse, but if he had days of despair, as he must have had, he never showed it in his communications. A selection of the emails was published in the Spring 2000 edition of BCM, under the title “Hello My Friends: The Medical Bulletins of JoJo David.”
JoJo’s medical people killed the cancer and saved him but warned he’d never be able to sing again. He proved them wrong, recording an album of jazz and pop standards five years later. Their second prediction, that his heart would fail as a consequence of the treatment he’d received, proved sadly prescient. He leaves his wife, Anne Marie, his daughter, Madeline, his mother, Zenaida David, and his brothers Robert and Lonnie David.
JoJo David’s ministry was music, and it so happened that music was his life calling, which made his life—as a singer, composer, teacher, pop musician, liturgical musician—a ministry in its entire. A concert and vigil service in St. Ignatius Church drew about 500 people, most of whom, it became clear, knew how to sing. Someone played a Baptist hymn on the church organ. “Thro’ all the tumult and the strife / I hear the music ringing; / It finds an echo in my soul— / How can I keep from singing?” That was JoJo.