9-year-old takes on legend of Elvis

Published 1:27 pm Friday, May 7, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- There is one thing that sets Niles' Matthew Ammerman apart from other Elvis impersonators.
He is only 9 years old.
With his sequin jumpsuit, slicked back hair and energetic voice, Ammerman looks and acts like a tiny version of the King of Rock &Roll.
The Brandywine Elementary fourth grader, son of Jeff and Deborah Ammerman, has been performing as Elvis for two years and would like to continue his hobby into adulthood.
Surprisingly enough, the Elvis influence was not something that filtered down through his parents, it was something that he developed on his own.
His fascination with the King began in preschool, when Matthew's teacher played an Elvis CD during clean-up time.
He has not looked back since. Elvis immediately became his favorite singer and Matthew would often sing along to his CDs.
Three years ago, Matthew received a karaoke machine for Christmas. This gift allowed him to use a microphone and project his voice as he sang along and it soon turned into a string of live performances.
One of his first "gigs" came from his grandfather Howard Ammerman, a former musician who set up performances for Matthew at his retirement home and local senior citizen centers.
For Matthew's eighth birthday party, his mother surprised him by hiring local Elvis impersonator Irv Cass to come in and sing with him.
Cass, a well-respected Elvis impersonator who put together an Elvis Fest at the Ramada Inn in South Bend last year, invited Matthew to come and perform at the festival.
With a crowd of about 400 people in attendance, he performed in front of his largest audience yet.
He has also had two other large performances. One came last year when he performed in front of his entire school at a talent show. And the other came at the Elco Performing Arts Center in Elkhart, where he got his first opportunity to perform with a live band, the Hoosier Hayride Opry.
For most of kids his age, it seems like nerves would be a factor, but not for Matthew.
His desire to perform as an Elvis impersonator is something Matthew that has created completely on his own.
Last month, Matthew went into a local studio, the Buchanan-based Gene Michael Productions, to complete the recording of his first CD, "A Little Elvis."
Deborah, a graphic designer for the studio, said they only produced 300 copies and they are not for sale. The CDs are being given away to friends and family.
David Taylor, sound engineer/composer at Gene Michael Productions, said Matthew was great in the studio for a newcomer.
Deborah is pleased with Matthew's involvement with music and thinks this is a very rewarding experience for him and his future. "When kids are involved with activities like music and sports, there is a lot less room for trouble," she said.