‘They kind of think of me as a rock star’ Retired Army pilot embraces multiple roles at kids’ school

Published 7:04 am Sunday, December 12, 2021

Most high school basketball teams have public address announcers whose job it is to announce starting lineups, substitutions, foul calls, etc.

Heritage Academy has Jason McElveen, who has expanded that traditional role of P.A. announcer, pumping up the crowd, often serenading fans, karaoke-style, with his own playlist.

McElveen and his wife, Shelly, have four children at Heritage. The oldest is 12, so none have reached the inevitable “eye rolling” stage that often comes when parents encroach too closely on the private sanctum of teen-dom.

“They kind of think of me as a rock star,” Jason McElveen said. “They love it.”

That seems to be the consensus: Come for the games, stay for the show.

“He keeps the energy going,” said Heritage Academy headmaster Greg Carlyle. “He’s one of those people that know how to relate to people and interact with fans and keep them engaged. He’s all in, that’s for sure.”

McElveen said he initially played his role at P.A. announcer straight.

“After a while, I noticed there was some dead air, mainly during time-outs or quarter breaks,” said McElveen, a retired Army helicopter pilot who has a degree in music and worked as a disc jockey for his own weekly radio show when he was stationed in Hawaii. “When there were those long breaks, you could feel the energy level go down, so I started singing, mainly to fill that dead air.”

Since then, McElveen has put together his own playlist, including a soulful rendition of “Georgia on My Mind” that brings the audience to its feet.

“At first, people thought I was lip-synching,” McEvleen said. “It took them a while to realize I was singing.”

The McElveens are recent additions to the Heritage family, moving from Hawaii to Columbus (Shelly’s hometown) after he retired last fall.

“It was this spring that Jason’s special talent for engaging audiences of all types emerged,” Carlyle said.

“We have our elementary school field day and Jason volunteered to be the M.C.” Carlyle said. “He made it a fun time for the kids, just with the enthusiasm and energy he brought.”

Since then, McElveen has served as M.C. for Patriot football pep rallies and now is the P.A. announcer for both boys and girls varsity basketball.

That hardly scratches the surface of McElveen’s contributions to the school.

He works as a substitute teacher, accompanies class outings and is in the early stages of resurrecting the school’s band program. This year, he put together a drum line for the school with an eye toward establishing a full band program.

“What I would say about Jason is that he’s all-in, anything we ask or need, he seems to step up,” Carlyle said. “You can’t really put a value on what he’s meant to us.”

McElveen said his involvement with the school is based on two things: His own experience as a student and the bond he and his family have formed with their new school.

“Growing up, my parents were working and couldn’t always be there for things at the school,’ said McElveen, a South Carolina native. “It’s not that they weren’t interested, it was just the circumstances. But my retirement has put me in a position financially and time-wise to be involved. I love doing this and I’m fortunate to be in the position I am.”

For the McElveens what could have been a difficult transition to a new home and new school was made easier due to the community they found.

“Moving 5,000 miles during a pandemic isn’t the best situation,” he said. “But from the day we got here, the school embraced me and my family and made it so easy. You hear people talk about the Heritage family. For us, it really is a family. So anything I can do to show them my appreciation, I want to do it.”