The Arts

A Dynamic Rhythm for Success: Ishmale Davis

By Chad Osborne

Ishmales's grandmother now has an iPhone.

Her persistent texts and late-night calls keep him grounded and often awake at night.

“She’ll text me and say, Ish, you better…,” he explains, cutting off his sentence and bursting into laughter about the texts his grandmother sends to remind him of what he needs to do to succeed in college. He is laughing, too, about the confession he is about to make.

“She called at 11:40 last night, and I didn’t answer,” he laughs more, like an eight-year-old who knows he is in trouble for doing something he just could not help doing.

“She will talk all night if I answer,” says Ishmale, or Ish, as his friends and family call him. “She’ll talk about nothing, and then she’ll fall asleep sitting on the edge of her bed.”

Ish is mostly kidding about his grandmother, of course. They have that sort of relationship. The two, along with Ish’s grandfather, are close. His grandparents helped raise him and, along with his mother, instilled in him an unbreakable work ethic.

They are proud of who he has become and what he is accomplishing at Radford University, which is a lot.

Since first stepping foot on the Radford University campus, Ish, a senior from Danville, Virginia, has been a dynamic, life-changing force for many people. He has touched the hearts of those fortunate enough to be captured by the gravitational pull that is powered by his warm personality and infectious smile.

His welcoming, familial nature is in his DNA. His warmth stems, too, from his feeling of comfort at Radford. “It feels like home here,” he explains. “Everyone here makes you feel like you belong. Everyone, President Hemphill, the faculty and the staff, pushes you to succeed in every way possible. This feels like family.”

Ishmale Davis

During his first three years at Radford, Ish majored in music education. It seemed to be a natural progression. He began playing drums when he was six years old, and he has been sharing his talents since. He was in high school band, chorus and orchestra. He came to Radford to learn more, share more and teach others.

“The music program here is phenomenal,” he says, “one of the best in Virginia.”

But, before entering his senior year, Ish changed directions. He flipped the record. He realized his passion was not in teaching, but simply making other people smile.

“There is no better feeling than walking into a room, smiling and making everyone feel better,” Ish says. “That’s just the best feeling in the world.”

It is a feeling that inspires him to engage with the Radford family and beyond. He must strike balance between his schoolwork, his role as “a man of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated,” the West African Drum and Dance group he founded as a freshman, the gospel group he plays with that just released an album last summer, the high school drumline he works with and his jazz band.

“It’s hard sometimes, but I love it all,” he says. “As long as I can find time to sleep, I’m fine.”

Somehow, Ish manages it all, while maintaining a 3.7 GPA and serving as a Quest Assistant and an ambassador for the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Simply reading his day-to-day calendar would render some exhausted. He studies, works, performs, helps others where and when he can and rarely misses a beat.

Ish is always busy, working jobs, planning activities and performing at gigs. And, he will always be people-focused. It is one reason he changed his major from music education to political science. Someday, Ish plans to hold public office and create change that is positive for his community and good for the people.

His grandmother, miles away in Danville, knows the kind of person Ish is, and that he is leaving an indelible mark on the Radford University community with his kindness and benevolence.

She will talk about him to anyone who will listen.