Choir members are: Olivia Wethington, Collin Knight, Jacob Baker, Sylvia Stewart, Seraphina Nettesheion, Khaleah Lancaster, Nate Larwa and Rickey Winn. Not present for picture were: Kristine Dycus, D.D. McDaniels, Kyle Fowler, Zach Peek and Jordan Stone
What started out as a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for one high school choir turned into a battle reminiscent of David and Goliath with the smaller combatant taking the prize, only to turn into a story of sharing the spotlight – literally – for the benefit of both groups. If it sounds confusing, that’s because it reflects the twists and turns of a tale that will conclude Friday night, Feb. 15, as two high school choirs share the glory with a legendary rock band!
WQQR-FM 94.7 plays classic rock and planned to co-sponsor a concert at the Carson Center in Paducah of Foreigner, a band formed in 1976 that solidified its place in rock history with hit songs such as “Hot Blooded,” “Cold as Ice,” “Double Vision,” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You.”
“When we were approached by Foreigner to do this contest, we were all for it,” said Mark Ryan, morning show host on the Double Q. “We thought it would bring out some real community spirit.”
The choirs of three western Kentucky high schools emerged as contenders to benefit from the chance millions of rock music fans only can dream about –to sing on stage with their heroes.
"As a first-year teacher, I never could have expected an opportunity like this to arise for my kids,” said Graves County choir director Raeanne McKendree. “We have worked together only for a few months, but I have grown to understand them and what they relate to. I knew that a performance with Foreigner only could open their eyes further to new perspectives. It's not just about making music. It's about making music meaningful."
The radio station posted videos of all three choirs – Graves County, Lyon County, and Murray – on its web site and opened the contest up to whichever school could obtain the most on-line votes.
Graves County seemed to have the advantage with a county-wide population of 37,519. Even subtracting the 10,024 residents of county seat Mayfield, which has its own independent school district, Graves still has 3.3 times more residents than Lyon County’s 8,317.
Murray fell behind early in the competition and, effectively, dropped out.
So, the Eagles no longer had to be concerned with Tigers, but those Lyons ultimately proved too much to bear!
Graves and Lyon counties jockeyed back and forth with more lead changes than a NASCAR race. But the Lyons were tenacious and roared back from a deficit last Friday, the contest’s final morning. Of nearly 95,000 votes cast, Lyon County won by a difference of less than 1,300 votes. The Lyons totaled 47,585 votes. Graves County placed second with 46,291. Murray received 1,087. In the end, Lyon had come back and won by a margin of 1,294.
"It was an opportunity to come together as a group, said Graves County freshman choir member Ja’Nae Clapp. “Competing made us closer because it was important to all of us rather than thinking only of ourselves.”
“When we lost, my students were just devastated,” McKendree said. “They had put so much effort into the project and had been really excited that so many other people made the effort to vote.”
Here’s where the David and Goliath story takes an unusual turn in an American society that values winning and the success of the individual… David invited his chief competitor to share the glory, the stage, and the rock star-dream come true!
And the David character’s real name? …That would be … David … Moss, the choir and band director at Lyon County High School.
“My students and I were just overwhelmed with the outpouring of support for the choir program the last few weeks!” he explained. “When we found out we were going to have open spots not used for the show (12 of the 25 positions Foreigner had made available), it was natural to invite our friends from Graves County to share the stage with us. We were glad that Foreigner and their management welcomed the idea of combining the two choirs and we’re looking forward to making some great music together.”
“My students now will share in an experience they’ll remember the rest of their lives,” said McKendree, the Graves County choir director, “but there are other lessons here that are far more important – lessons of kindness, empathy, and sharing your own good fortune! Mr. Moss and his students have given of themselves in a genuine act of kindness and it’s hard to find a lesson more effective or important than that!”
“One of the things that blew us away was when Lyon County extended an invitation to Graves County to share the stage,” said WQQR’s Ryan. “We thought that was an absolutely amazing gesture and we were thrilled to hear that Graves County accepted the offer. Everybody I’ve talked to is really excited about the two schools getting together. To some of these students, this might be one of the biggest things ever to happen in their lives.”
"Obviously the competition was rough,” said Graves County freshman Ryan Courtney, “but the fact that the Lyon County kids are willing to share a stage and meet new people for the opportunity of a lifetime proves it doesn't matter who you are or where you are from."
Ja'Nae Clapp, another Graves County freshman, also expressed her appreciation to her Lyon County counterparts. “Being able to step back in time, embracing another style of music other than what we hear today, is something we will never forget,” she said.
“I am proud of the way that my teacher and students have decided to ‘share the wealth,’” said Robin Hurst. She serves as Lyon County High School principal. “This experience will be a once-in-a lifetime event for not only Lyon County students, but Graves County students as well. It is great to see competitors put wins and losses aside, and work together so that all these kids can participate in the concert.”
“High school students who pursue the performing arts thrive on creativity and often search for meaning in their various endeavors,” said Jennifer Tilford, principal of Graves County High School’s Fine Arts and Health Sciences Academy. “I’m sure most of them involved in this project see something special in the fact that the song these two groups of students will sing together is “I Want to Know What Love Is.’ Through their sharing, Mr. Moss and his students exemplify the concept of caring for other people.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing the faces of the students the moment they get on the stage in front of a sold-out crowd in one of the best venues in Kentucky. Each student will remember that feeling for the rest of their lives,” Moss concluded. “Teachers get to make a difference in the lives of their students every day. It’s rare to get the opportunity with students outside your own district. But, music is for everyone, and should be shared.”
Foreigner has joined with the Grammy Foundation in an effort to help keep music education alive in high schools all over the country. The band has donated thousands of dollars to individual schools and to the Grammy Foundation.
At the Friday night concert, Foreigner will help raise money that will benefit the Lyon County High School Choir and the Graves County High School Chamber Choir with a $250 grant for each choir and a donation to the Grammy Foundation to further their efforts for in-school music programs throughout the country. The girls and boys from the choirs will sell Foreigner’s live greatest hits CD, featuring all of the band’s classic hits, for $20 per CD. Their sales will help fund the initiative. The project also includes the chance for one fan to win a Les Paul guitar.
THE LYONS SHARE – Lyon County High School choir members were trying to relax Monday [Feb. 11] after a nail-biter of an online contest, sponsored by WQQR Radio, to see who would appear onstage with Foreigner at the Carson Center on Friday night [Feb. 15]. After numerous lead changes, Lyon finished with 47,585 votes ahead of Graves County High School with 46,291 votes. Foreigner had allotted 25 spaces for the winning choir and Lyon County has only 13 members, local choir members received permission to invite 12 Graves County choir members to join them on stage… Choir members are: Olivia Wethington, Collin Knight, Jacob Baker, Sylvia Stewart, Seraphina Nettesheion, Khaleah Lancaster, Nate Larwa and Rickey Winn. Not present for picture were: Kristine Dycus, D.D. McDaniels, Kyle Fowler, Zach Peek and Jordan Stone.
(Photo, caption courtesy of Levi Holsapple and The Herald Ledger, a Lyon County newspaper)
IMPORTANT LESSONS – Lyon County High School’s choir won an on-line vote WQQR Radio held to determine who would sing with the rock band Foreigner at the Carson Center in Paducah Friday, Feb. 15. “When we found out we were going to have open spots not used for the show (12 of the 25 positions Foreigner had made available), it was natural to invite our friends from Graves County to share the stage with us,” said Lyon choir director David Moss. “We were glad that Foreigner and their management welcomed the idea of combining the two choirs and we’re looking forward to making some great music together.” Graves choir director Raeanne McKendree, responded, “My students now will share in an experience they’ll remember the rest of their lives, but there are other lessons here that are far more important – lessons of kindness, empathy, and sharing your own good fortune! Mr. Moss and his students have given of themselves in a genuine act of kindness and it’s hard to find a lesson more effective or important than that!” Pictured here are GCHS Chamber Choir members who will perform with Foreigner. They include, from left, (front row) Brea Rollston, Helena Jones, Abigail Thomas, (second row) Lacie Ellis, Karlee Riley, Julia Stinson, (third row) Buddy Jackson, Zach Smith, Hayley Morgan, (fourth row) Alyssa Rollston, Konor Copeland, and Cody Ball.
(Photo by Paul Schaumburg, Graves County Schools)