Krajcik's Magic: Local man makes his way to the live shows on The X Factor

Lisa Pim, of Millersburg, will be on an airplane Monday to see her son, Josh Krajcik, continue on in Fox's The X Factor competition.

Denice Rovira Hazlett

On Tuesday, Oct. 18, Lisa Pim of Millersburg stood wedged elbow-to-elbow in the crowded patio of The Old Jaol Tavern in Wooster. Friends, family, and folks from the community had gathered, anxious and eager, to catch the latest episode of The X Factor, the high-drama singing competition and brainchild of former American Idol judge Simon Cowell. Thirty-two competitors remained out of more than 2,500. Pim's 30-year-old son, Triway graduate Josh Krajcik, was one of them, and Tuesday's show would reveal whether he would advance to the next round, moving him one step closer toward the show's impressive payoff, a recording contract worth $5 million, the largest guaranteed prize in television history. When Krajcik's larger-than-life face appeared on The Old Jaol's 20-foot screen, the room erupted with hoots and hollers. Pim, proudly sporting her Team Josh T-shirt, just shook her head, taking it all in.

"I feel like I'm walking in circles," said the retired Triway teacher. "I can't concentrate."

Understandably, Pim has a lot on her mind. Just four weeks ago, Josh Krajcik unexpectedly blew audiences - and Simon Cowell - away during the show's U.S. premiere with his soulful rendition of Etta James' 1961 hit, "At Last." As a single mom, the past 30 years have been a long road for Pim, who not only drove Krajcik every mile of the way to the Chicago audition, but has been trying to steer him in the right direction his whole life.

"He had thought about going to the audition, and his friend backed out," said Pim. Krajcik, who had been making burritos for a living, couldn't afford to make the trip, so Pim, without hesitating, got behind the wheel. After all, she had been waiting for years for her son to make this move. She wasn't going to let it slip away.

Krajcik's parents knew early on that their son was very special. By age four, Josh Krajcik was revealing his headstrong personality and gift of music. His dad, Ron Krajcik, of Wooster, remembered the first time he realized his son was different, during a summer visit to where he was living in Southern California. Josh was 7.

"We were driving up the 101 and he switched on the radio, stopping on a song by Rick Springfield. We pulled in the driveway, he went in the house, sat down at the upright piano and played that song. He'd never had a lesson."

Recognizing their son's gift was easy. Steering him in a direction to use it? That was the challenge. Musician and teacher Toni Shreve knew she had her hands full when Josh came to her for piano lessons.

"I have never encountered another child like him. He was so single-minded," said Shreve. "He knew what he wanted. He wasn't interested in what the rest of us thought was best for him. You knew that this child had absolute soul - a power and gift that just radiated."

Shreve found a way for Krajcik to play his own thing while sneaking in some music reading and theory in the process. Krajcik stuck with her for a couple of years, but as soon as he had the tools he needed, he was on his own again.

"Toni Shreve was a godsend," said Ron Krajcik. "Josh was always difficult to teach, but Toni was really good with him. She let him write his stuff, and then she would ask him what happened there, why it worked musically. He grasped that and really soaked it in."

But while Shreve was able to offer Krajcik advice, expose him to a wide range of musical styles, and force-feed him a bit of theory, the real learning, she said, came from closer to home.

"His greatest influence was his father, who taught him guitar and bass," said Shreve. "They played the blues together, and that's really Josh's first love."

Dad, however, isn't so quick to take the credit. As a non-custodial parent, he knows that Pim had the hard job of raising their son alone. His role, he said, was to provide his boy with the tools he needed to grow the gift, handing Josh Krajcik his first Fender Stratocaster.

"There was no interfacing with him for the rest of that Christmas morning," the elder Krajcik said. "He was off with his guitar. I showed him a chord or two, but you're not going to teach him a lot. He's going to learn it on his own."

It has been hard for Pim to watch her son struggle to make it in music, playing dark, empty bars, doing shift-work in crowded factories and slinging burritos to make ends meet. But Krajcik has made it clear. He's not going back to making burritos. He wants to be a star.

Finally, the moment came, and The Old Jaol went silent. Lisa Pim watched as her grown son transformed into that 4-year-old boy she remembered, waiting expectantly as judge Nicole Scherzinger told him whether his unforgettable performance of Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" was enough to move him into the next round. Scherzinger looked into Krajcik's eyes, telling him that he was so unassuming, like the guy next door.

"I don't know if the guy next door is necessarily a superstar," said Scherzinger. The tavern was silent. Scherzinger continued. "I've weighed everything up and I've made my decision. Josh, you are going through with me to live shows." The room exploded with applause. Pim was on her feet, the photo on her shirt of her and Josh locked in embrace below the words "At Last" barely visible through the sea of supporters

"At last, my love has come along." Belting out those words propelled Josh Krajcik into an international spotlight. But with the support of a community like this, a talented dad like Ron Krajcik and a loyal mom like Lisa Pim, it's clear that the love has been there all along.

Published: October 21, 2011
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