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The City Journals

Escalator up: how one Taylorsville High student teacher keeps on rolling

Nov 26, 2019 04:55PM ● By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones | [email protected]

Amanda King loves to sing and conduct music. She also enjoys skiing, swimming, wheelchair basketball, opera, theater and riding up an escalator still sitting in her chair.

She was at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, playing at halftime for the Denver Nugget’s game once, which was really fun, she said. “But when I went up [the escalator], this big, big guy looks down at my face. ‘You can’t do that,’ he tells me. ‘You’re dangerous on the escalator.’”

King smiles. “I’ve never fallen or had a bad experience on an escalator,” she said. “Besides, skiing is definitely more dangerous. I go really, really fast.”

King, who is currently a student-teacher of Choir at Taylorsville High School and working on her Music Education degree, believes everything she does is a good fit. 

“One thing I really love is connecting with people,” she said. “And that’s something [you get] with team sports and with music groups. You have to have a connection, and that’s one thing I really thrive off of—being able to establish connections with people.”

Connections that King remembers began for her when she was about 6 years old and went to summer wheelchair sports camp for the first time. 

“When I came in that first day I thought, ‘Wow, there are so many different people in wheelchairs!’”

She continued to attend sports camp and joined the choir at about the same time which she “absolutely adored.”

Orchestra began in middle school, as did wheelchair basketball, which has continued clear into college. 

“I didn’t know much about wheelchair basketball,” she said. “I’d played before. Camp was designed in a way that you could just dabble in [different] stuff, but I really didn’t know the basic rules of basketball. During one game the coach yelled at me. I got off the court and cried.”

King has since had many encounters with coaches and admits she no longer takes the yelling personally.

“Being able to talk and listen to people is important,” King said.

Also, important is keeping at it when the going gets tough.


Amanda King wins adult division in Taylorsville’s Got Talent. (Photo courtesy of Wendy Dahl-Smedshammer, Taylorsville Arts Council Director)

 

“Sometimes I’d go, go, go, and then I’d crash,” King said. She was in Illinois for three years, playing for the University of Illinois wheelchair basketball and studying music education, when the first hint came. The training was “intense, and I was like going along, and my life imploded. I found out I had depression.”

She returned home to Colorado and decided to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

“I have an eating problem,” King said. “I also love being active. On my mission, I thought, ‘I can focus more on eating better.’ I’d struggle with sleep sometimes.”

When King returned to Utah Valley University after her mission, she tried to take it easy. She didn’t take too many classes. And then someone asked her to play wheelchair basketball, and King couldn’t resist. She played with the team for two seasons before returning to school again last year. 

And today?

“I’m back playing again for the Wheelin’ Jazz,” she said. “It’s a Division 1 team, and I’m the only female on the team.”

She has plenty more going on.

“Theater and opera are sitting on the side,” she said. “I did the Taylorville’s Got Talent a few weeks ago, and I won the adult division.” Come Dec. 16, her group of 115 students will perform at Taylorsville High School, and the day before that at the Assembly Hall at Temple Square.

Sometimes, she still gets depressed despite her fulfilled and busy life. 

“I’m just now coming out of a low 2½-week valley,” she said. 

Still, King said, it’s been an “adventure.” She talks about using a separate wheelchair cushion for conducting, figuring out where she needs to position the piano, where she needs to position herself, especially with a bigger group where, upon standing, she can see only the first three rows. There’s a lot of “experimenting,” a lot of “positioning” until things get figured out. 

“I don’t have everything in concrete,” she said. 

And that includes music.