Focus key for Chattanooga swimmer, singer and oboist Matthew Davis

Focus key for Chattanooga swimmer, singer and oboist Matthew Davis

January 3rd, 2012 by Casey Phillips in Life Entertainment

Matthew Davis, 11, practices his laps during swim team practice at Baylor School. Davis also plays the oboe and sings with the Chattanooga Boys Choir.

Photo by Jenna Walker /Times Free Press.


• Name: Matthew Davis.

• Age: 11.

• Grade: 6th grade.

• School: Baylor School.

• Hometown: Chattanooga.


• Favorite book: The Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games trilogy.

• Favorite movies: "Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 1" and "... Part 2."

• Celebrity he'd like to meet: Michael Phelps.

• Hobbies: Reading, playing cards, swimming and watching other people play video games.

• Pets: Five dogs, Pearl, Ace, Storm, Misty and Donut; a bearded dragon, Vladimir; and three sheep, Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

• Place he'd like to visit: Tokyo or Istanbul.

• Favorite color: Green.


Do you know a child age 15 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at or call him at 423-757-6205.


Matthew Davis began competitive swimming with the Baylor Swim Club in third grade. This year, he is a member of Baylor's middle school swimming and diving team. He also is a straight-A student and is singing for his fourth season with the Chattanooga Boys Choir.

Third grade was a game changer for Matthew Davis.

Swimming, a hobby he'd had since he was two years old, became a competitive activity when he joined the Baylor Swim Club. The same year he also was accepted into the Chattanooga Boys Choir and took up the oboe.

Looking back, Matthew, now 11, said he occasionally struggled with juggling commitments.

"Last year and in years before ... it was really hard," he said. "I was staying late and doing homework."

Fortunately, Matthew possesses time management skills and a sense of responsibility, said his mother Heather Ott, who teaches English at the Baylor School where Matthew is a sixth grader.

As the youngest of three children, Matthew could

have been a dreamy, unfocused child. Instead, he became the opposite, Ott said.

Matthew is always on time and is usually awake and ready to go by 6 a.m. He said he uses the morning to practice his oboe, something many young musicians have to be forced to do.

On the first day of kindergarten, Matthew decided he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, trial attorney Lee Davis, with his eyes on an eventual judge's appointment. Ever since, he has demonstrated a remarkably mature outlook on life and his responsibilities, Ott said.

"It's very important to him that he knows exactly what's expected of him, where he's supposed to be, what time and what he needs to have with him and that all those things are done," his mother said. "Matthew is very, very squared away about what need to happen and how to make it happen."

Ott also praised her son's keen memory. As a fourth grader at Bright School, he won the school geography bee. This year, he has continued to excel, maintaining averages of 95 and above in all of his classes.

Dedication has also been key to Matthew's performance in the pool. He is one of the only sixth graders who compete in the 500- and 1,000-meter events, long distances normally reserved for older, more physically developed athletes.

When he was 9 years old, Matthew swam his first 500, a feat requiring 20 consecutive laps. He was swimming against older, more-developed swimmers, and the experience was exhausting.

"You keep going when you see your coaches on the sidelines pushing you on," he explained.

"I was dying," he said, laughing. "I was panting and trying to control my breathing."

Matthew is not one for hogging the spotlight, but rather doing what benefits the group, said Vic Oakes, the artistic and executive director of the Chattanooga Boys Choir and director of Baylor's middle school choirs.

Now a member of the Boys Choir's second most-senior group, the concert choir, Oakes said Matthew has proven himself indispensable, not just for his vocal talent, but also for the consideration he shows for the choir as a whole.

"He's a choir director's dream. He comes prepared, eager and enthusiastic," Oakes said. "He does whatever is needed for the group, which is rare in this 'me first' generation we're in."

Given his many interests, Matthew has many different paths he could eventually decide to pursue, but whatever he chooses to do, Ott said she is confident he'll do well.

"I like the Abraham Lincoln quote: 'Whatever you are, be a good one,'" she said. "I want him to be happy."

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.