- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - The voices of fourth-graders sounded throughout the music room at Holy Spirit Elementary School as the students sang “I Want to Know What Love Is” in preparation to perform in concert with the band Foreigner at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.

The song will be part of the “Soundtrack of Summer” tour, which will begin with former Eagles’ guitarist Don Felder as the opening act, Foreigner in the middle and Styx closing the show. The concert is May 29.

Annie McClendon, the music teacher at Holy Spirit, said the fourth-grade class was working on a Journey song for their annual Spring Sing event when one of the fourth-grade teachers, Debbie Brinster, approached her about a contest she had heard about on the radio.

The contest, held by local stations throughout North America, allows school choirs to compete for a chance to perform on stage with Foreigner when the band comes to a local venue. Winners receive $500 to help fund their school’s music program.

“I don’t get any money from the school,” McClendon said. “Every penny that it takes me to do anything, I fundraise. We can’t do a musical or a play or anything if I don’t go beg for money.”

McClendon said she plans to use the money to put on plays, pay registration fees for students to go on choir trips or to purchase instruments.

She said it is fulfilling and rewarding to go from pushing a cart to singing on stage with Foreigner.

“When I started 10 years ago, I was seriously pushing a push cart through the hallways. I had those blue drumsticks in my door, a hand drum and a little CD player, and I remember my first day trying to push an upright piano down the hallway,” McClendon said. “Everything in this room and all my instruments in the closet were all from donations and begging.”

Foreigner’s director of marketing, John Lappen, said the contest is part of the band’s effort to help raise money for the Grammy Foundation’s MusiCares fund, which helps fund music education in schools.

Lappen said Foreigner has partnered with the foundation for the past six years and has given hundreds of school choirs the $500 donation and the opportunity to perform with the band.

“It’s really become a trademark of the band’s show. It helps bring attention to the show, and our favorite part is being able to give these kids the chance to get on the stage,” Lappen said. “The looks on their faces after they float off the stage after singing with the band are priceless.”

McClendon said the choir won’t be able to rehearse the song with the band before performing.

“It’s so scary for them to have to go up there just blind,” McClendon said. “It’s line them up, walk them out, go.”

The fourth-graders, who were familiar with the song but didn’t know who the band is, expressed concern and admitted nervousness about performing, but they were excited saying they just want to look cool.

“I’m just worried that one of us is going to mess up and then all of us are going to be embarrassed,” fourth-grader Wilson King said.

Fourth-grade teachers Erica Stewart and Brinster said the two classes only rehearsed for about 10 minutes before McClendon recorded the choir and uploaded the audio clip to the radio station’s website, where the public could go online and vote for their favorite. Stewart said the kids knew the song by the end of the second time she played it.

“I looked the song up, got the song to practice, got the kids sat down, and immediately they took to it. They loved it,” Stewart said.


Information from: The Tuscaloosa News, http://www.tuscaloosanews.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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