Huntsville mas has inspirational musical message
Christi Laney

The Huntsville Item, June 5 2009

After being adopted into a family of 37 children, one Huntsville resident has used his unique upbringing and love for God to create a burgeoning musical career, including the release of his first album in 2007.

As a Christian contemporary artist, the market may be smaller for this determined singer, but the passion he carries for the message behind his music is strong and impossible to break.

Jon Sheptock, a native of New Jersey and recent transplant to Texas, has taken his love of music and vocal talent to stages across the United States, from performing in the prisons of Huntsville to touring with his idol , Bill Gaither, in Gatlinburg, Tenn. His voice and inspirational messages have uplifted thousands and led him into a life he never dreamed he would be able to enjoy.

To add to his long list of achievements, Sheptock has been able to accomplish all of this without one of the things that so many take for granted: he was born without any arms.

After his birth, Sheptocks’ biological parents gave him up for adoption and the couple who would become his mother and father stepped in to the rescue. The pair quickly acquired a motley crew of children, adopting over 37 kids form a variety of backgrounds.

“I have brothers who were black, brothers with autism, brothers with Down’s Syndrome,” Sheptock said. “My mother became an inspirational speaker once people began to ask how she did it and how she could raise all of these kids, and she took me along. That’s when I started singing in public.”

Ever since his mother found him on top of their kitchen table, signing songs from the musical “Grease,” Sheptock knew he had a gift for music and the passion to pursue a career in the music industry. Though he performs Christian music, Sheptock said some the biggest influences he grew up listening to were a variety of artists from the 1970s, as well as Elvis Presley.

“I didn’t know where I was going; not many people will hire a guy with no arms,” Sheptock said “it was in a small town with not a lot of opportunities other than jobs in labor. There were times when I was ready to just jump out the window.”

Instead, Sheptock chose to turn to his faith and found strength in the God he has been raised to love and serve no matter the circumstance he found himself in.

“On night, I just got on my face and said, If you’re not going to change this, then I will end it,” Sheptock said. “I realized I needed to give God a chance to make it OK in his time and not time. It would not benefit me or anyone else to sit in a corner and cry, ‘Oh, woe is me, I don’t’ have any arms,’”

Since his college years, Sheptock has learned how to use his disability to inspire others. He combines his love of music with his love of helping others to spread his inspirations message that every life is valuable and everybody is capable of doing something great with whatever they have been given.

“I enjoy showing people that even though I have this physical disability, if I can do this, what can you do?” Sheptock said. “Everyone can do something in this life.”

Being raised with 33 siblings and now raising three daughters of his own, Sheptock has found a special niche in speaking to children, who are often see him as a role model for their own lives. While the children he coaches for his daughters’ soccer teams see the man with no arms as a fascinating figure to inspect and look at, the children who share similar disabilities with Sheptock see a man living the life they might hope to also have one day. Either way, Sheptock said working with kids is something he enjoys and is grateful to have the opportunity to do.

“I tell the kids on my soccer teams, OK take a peek if you want to , and then let’s get to playing some soccer,” Sheptock said. “The kids who are disabled can look up to me and say, ‘If you can do it, so can I.’”

After dealing with the frustration of having the door shut in his face countless times on the job search, Sheptock found the music industry to be not all that different. Though he is now doing the thing he loves most, Sheptock said he still finds himself at the mercy of the generosity of others.

“it can still get frustrating at times,” Sheptock said. “You have to rely on other people to give you the chance. Even in the music industry, they sometimes shun me. When I tried out for “American Idol,” they basically told met that they couldn’t put me though because they couldn’t have people voting for me just because of my disability. But singing has given me a good platform for my message.”

Sheptock is currently working on the release of his second album and will travel to Nashville, Tenn., this July to try out for a Christian music competition. While there, Sheptock said he hopes to gain the attention of company executives willing to give him a shot at expanding his musical career.

“Everyone from the Christian music industry is there,” Sheptock said. “There is a male vocalist contents, and prayerfully, someone will pick me up.”

In the meantime, Sheptock said he is enjoying his life in Huntsville with is daughters and wife of 10 years, who is a native of Huntsville and the reason he chose to move here. He used a modified car to get around town with on foot on the gas pedal and the other on a steering wheel that was lowered so he can use his foot to steer.

While Sheptock continues to inspire all those who attend his concerts and speeches, one place that serves as a source of inspiration for his is the local prison system.

Sheptock began singing in the prisons several years ago at the request of his pastor of Fellowship of Huntsville. After his first performance, Sheptock said the pastor wasn’t allowed to come back without the prison’s new favorite singer.

“I go to the prisons once a month, which I never thought I would do in my life,” Sheptock said. “The prisoners go nuts; they love it. I sometimes say it is better to go to jail than to church.”

With all that has happened in his life and all he has been able to accomplish, the time Sheptock spends performing in the prisons may best sum up his philosophy on life. From the mountaintop to the valley, Sheptock has kept his faith in God and learned that it really is the best thing to live for.

“Every time I go I get something from them,” Sheptock said. “They truly have nothing else to live for, besides God, and I want to live like that every day in the free world.”