For many it was the must-see concert of the Fair. When Foreigner took the stage Friday evening at the Pepsi Grandstand the atmosphere was one of anticipation. It was especially true for a group of Smith-Cotton High School singers who were given the once in a lifetime opportunity to perform with the rock legends.
In what has become a custom at many of Foreigner’s performances, the group selects a local high school choir to sing backup on their No. 1 song, “I Want to Know What Love Is.”
“Kari Mergen, Director of Marketing at Missouri State Fair, gave my contact information to the manager for Foreigner,” former S-C Vocal Director Anna Wooderson said. “I received a voicemail that he would like to talk to the Director of Smith-Cotton Show Choirs. When I called him back he said that New Score Singers had come highly recommended as a local group of outstanding high school singers who might be interested in singing with Foreigner.”
Wooderson, who has left the district to teach in the Kansas City area, explained the backup choir is limited to 25 members. The students chosen to perform are incoming junior and senior New Score Singers for the upcoming school year. The students were all members of the group during the 2018-19 school year.
“I was prepared to send them closer to 75 singers but those students that will not be performing are excited for their fellow choir friends to have this once in a lifetime opportunity,” Wooderson commented. “The students are really excited.”
Both the students and many of their parents were excited by the performance, according to S-C student Chase McMullin.
“It was an amazing experience to get to sing with Foreigner,” McMullin said. “They’re a big-time band and I’ve grown up listening to them because my father and mother are huge fans and they grew up on that music and went to a bunch of their concerts. So to get to sing on stage with them was unreal.“
According to Wooderson, the students had one rehearsal in June that included learning the notes and words of the song, familiarity with the band logistics and mental preparation.
Foreigner bassist Jeff Pilson told Democrat reporter Faith Bemiss during a phone interview the group would donate $500 to the SCHS Music Department.
“We are working in partnership with the Grammy Foundation,” Pilson said. “Basically what we are trying to do is we are trying to help school music funding.
“As you know, in this day and age of bad education funding, one of the first things they usually cut is the music program,” he continued. “It’s such a crime because it’s been proven that music helps in so many other areas. So, we’re out to help.”
The mental preparation was an important aspect of the performance because for many this was the largest audience they had performed in front of.
“Singing with Foreigner was the most fun and amazing experience I could have asked for,” Macy Broyles said following the performance. “It was amazing to have the opportunity to perform with them and help them spread an impact on the arts in our school district. When our group got on stage all I could see was a stadium full of people. It was so fun to feel like an actual rock star.”