Alumnus Launches Avon's Got Talent


Alumnus Launches Avon's Got Talent

Featured Alumnus: Michael Pumphret ’13

As Avon Old Farms School continues to strive for some semblance of normalcy and permanence amid a global health crisis, one alumnus is lending his talents to the cause. Michael Pumphret may have chosen to attend Avon because of its athletics, but this week Pumphret kicked off an Avon’s Got Talent competition with an original song: Your Cowboy.

As a young student, Pumphret played football, hockey, and baseball. When it was time to consider secondary school options, he knew getting lost in a large public school wouldn’t serve him well, and private schools often had the best athletic programs.

“My neighbor growing up in Sudbury, Mass. was Brendan Mahoney ’05, so from the time I was in the fourth or fifth grade, I knew the lore of Avon Old Farms School,” Pumphret shared. “Of course, like any other young kid I didn’t understand why anyone would want to attend an all-boys school, but, here we are.”

Pumphret had a few schools on his list to visit, but one by one they were crossed off, except for Avon.

“I remember visiting Pomfret Prep, but in the admissions office it only took a minute before the first Pumphret/Pomfret joke hit, so that was a no pretty quickly,” he joked.

Once the decision was made to attend Avon, Pumphfret settled in quickly. He recalls the Westy vs. Avon hockey game each year, and spending Saturday afternoons watching football in the Elephant Common Room with Nick Tarchis ’14 and some take out. He also still feels the influence of Major Bourgault to push himself harder, despite never having him as a teacher, and the guidance of Mrs. Reller, even if she always made sure he knew she was a Yankees fan.

Upon graduating, Pumphret enrolled at High Point University to study journalism. When his interests began to fade in his major, he began to discover his true passion: music.

“Music was something I gravitated toward when I was bored,” he explained. “At Avon, I had a ukulele in my room that I would strum sometimes, but never seriously. I wrote a lot for the Hippocrene and was the editor of the literary magazine my senior year. I think that was how I learned about writing, rhyme schemes, and poetry structure. Growing up, there was a lot of Garth Brooks and Randy Travis played in our house. Then in college once I joined a fraternity, sometimes I was the sober monitor of the party and it got old very quickly, so I started to bring a guitar with me so I could sit in a corner and play. One day, all of that came together and some people started to tell me I was good, and that was the tiny bit of encouragement I needed.”

Around the same time, he switched his major to electronic media, where he learned how to mix audio and video recordings. 

“I really wanted to work on producing music videos, but my fallback was to get a job at any tv or radio station,” he explained.

With a developing interest in music, Pumphret began to play open mic nights around town. He then worked a deal with a popular restaurant: let him play for a few hours, and they could pay him with a free meal. Soon, he was the top name on their list of entertainers and people were going there just to see him play.

“At the time I was bringing them more business than any of their other musicians, and I think that was still the case up until they closed just a couple of months ago.”

By his junior year at High Point, he had a reputation and was playing a few full-band shows a year. By his senior year, he knew he would either move to Nashville or Austin after graduation.

“A buddy of mine said one day, ‘So, do you want to go to Nashville?’ and I said yes, thinking he meant we’d take a road trip after graduation—two weeks later I had a lease agreement for an apartment sitting in my inbox.”

That was 2017, and three years later Pumphret is still putting in the work daily to become a recognized musician.

“I set goals for myself each year: at first, it was I want to write X amount of songs by the end of the year, and then it was I want to play a room of a certain size… This year, my bucket list included playing at two specific showcases and two ‘writers rounds’ and my goal was to quit my day job by March to perform full time. I’ve done three out of the four shows, and had gigs booked to get me playing full time. But then when COVID-19 happened, 11 of the 12 shows I had on my calendar were canceled.”

Then, Kevin Driscoll called with a request for some help.

“Honestly, my first reaction was, ‘How did Kevin Driscoll get my phone number?,’ but then when he said Avon was looking for some talent, I told him I was in. I hadn’t been in touch with Avon very much since graduating, but it was something that I had wanted to do. When the school reached out, it was a win-win.”

And so, this week, Michael Pumphret, stage name Michael Pace, announced Avon’s virtual Avon’s Got Talent competition, open to students, faculty, and alumni who are not only musically inclined, but talented in any way.

“When I was at Avon, I was never a part of the choir or took a music class, but there were always kids who played football in the fall and did theater in the winter,” he said. “You never know what your talents are until you give them a chance… Not until you explore more avenues will you discover what you’re good at, what your passions are. Some won't get outside of their comfort zone for fear of being judged—but that’s not the case at Avon. If there’s a place to get out of your comfort zone, it’s Avon, and this show is an opportunity.”

Information on the Avon’s Got Talent competition is available on Avon’s Morning Meeting website: While our grand prize will be reserved for current students, alumni and faculty are encouraged to submit videos to inspire our current students to get involved.

“I would love to be on the road for the rest of my life, and having a number one single would be great, but really it’s all about having fun. It takes courage and a little bit of crazy to put yourself out there, but it’s worth it.”