Kevin Stabinsky
Sentinel assistant editor

"If I know I have a mission to do, I'm going to give it my all."

While it's a can-do philosophy is a good fit for his military career, this mindset is also helping Staff Sgt. Javis Pittman, plans NCO for G5 Plans at U.S. Army Central , pursue a secondary passion: music.

Pittman, who performs under the stage name J'Toven (a combination of his first initial and Beethoven), is an up-and-coming R&B singer who has been singing since he was 7 years old.

Pittman, 34, said his affinity for music came from his family.

"A lot of it came from my Uncle Curtis. He had me listen to old school music: jazz, Barry White, Grover Washington Jr., Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations," he said. "My grandmother also sang in the church choir."

From the influences of these Family members and the artists they introduced him to, Pittman began to create his own musical beats, rhythms and lyrics, all passions he also helps other artists create when not writing for himself.

Pittman also plays several instruments, saying he dabbles in "a little bit of everything: keyboard, drums, guitar and piano."

His self-writings have recently spawned his first single, "Ghetto Serenade," a song about a young couple whose love is hindered by the woman's mother, who does not approve of the young man her daughter loves. In an attempt to prove his lover's mother wrong, the young man makes it a point to get a good, stable job and joins the military.

Although Pittman said the music comes from his own life experiences and those of people he knows, he said it is still general enough for people to be able to relate it to their own lives.

"It's based in my real life, but I want the listeners to take it in their own perceptions," he said.

Basing his songs on real life also helps him tell emotional stories through his music, a lost skill many of today's artist lack, he said, but one he could hear in the music his uncle introduced him to.

"You can feel their passions. They are telling a story," Pittman explained.
As for his own story, unlike his flowing beats and his easily-strung-together words, Pittman's journey to be a singer was not an easy one.

"You have to have the drive and be hungry for it," Pittman said of the need to pursue and fulfill a dream.

For Pittman, that meant juggling his job, his passion and Family and being able to dedicate energy to all of them equally. Although at times a lot of work, Pittman has balanceing his time has enabled him to perform at nightclubs at all the installations he's been stationed at. He also produced for Dark Side records while at Fort Campbell, Ky.

"I went to a lot of open mics, won some competitions," he said. "All the hard work is paying off."

Besides the single, which also has an accompanying video on Youtube, Pittman is also making connections and performing openings for other artists. So far, Pittman has opened for Whodini, a hip-hop group and hip-hop artist Common, among others.
Pittman also has his own studio in Douglasville, which he hopes to grow into his own entertainment company, J'To Entertainment.

"Like Puffy (artist Sean 'Puffy' Combs) I'm starting from ground zero, working my way up," he said. "I want to be able to help others, help those who don't have money but have talent. I want to give others a shot, invest in them and myself."

Even for those not interested in pursuing music, Sgt. Maj. Anthony Manning, USARCENT G5 sergeant major, said Pittman's drive is a good model to follow, especially for Pittman's fellow Soldiers.

"He shows you can be in the military and be responsible while chasing your civilian dreams, and that you can do both well," he said.

Pittman agreed, saying anyone can do two jobs at a time as long as they put both feet forward. It is that attitude that Pittman hopes will continue to propel his dreams forward.

As for Pittman's dreams, Manning said it is only a matter of time before they are fulfilled.

"It is only an amount of time before he's discovered," Manning said after witnessing Pittman perform at the Red Light CafAfA in Atlanta. "I think he's pretty good. He has a lot of talent."

Angela Lindley, an Atlanta native who also was in attendance at the Red Light CafAfA, shared Manning's praise for Pittman's skills.

"He's very good. His lyrics aren't so hard and the music is good," she said. "It's important to support local artists doing things the right way, starting from the bottom and working their way up."

Pittman performs around Atlanta at various locations. Pittman said people can find upcoming performances on his MySpace page.

People can also purchase his single on i-Tunes.

Just as he is relying on other's support and patronage, roughly a dollar at a time, to continue his dream, Pittman is providing others with his own two cents for fulfilling their dreams, all for free.

"Never give up on your dreams," Pittman said. "When you want something you just have to go out and get it."