Zachary Peters describes himself as having only a “mediocre” talent when it comes to music.
Yet the Northwest Whitfield High School graduate and current Lee University senior is among three Dalton-area students who are a part of Lee’s Festival Choir that was selected to perform at the presidential inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
“I’m not a fantastic musician. I do well enough. This is by far probably the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced musically,” said Peters, a history major.
Facing that challenge with him will be Andrea Brown, a sophomore from Rocky Face who is majoring in music education, and Jordan Cannon, a business administration major from Dalton who is especially excited about the trip because Beyonce is scheduled to perform that day.
According to a press release from the university in Cleveland, Tenn., the Festival Choir is an ensemble put together from the school’s seven vocal ensembles. Music leaders hand-picked 200 students from among more than 500 in the separate music groups. They were chosen to perform through the influence of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who is vice chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
Choir members are scheduled to leave Friday for the big trip. They’re scheduled to perform at 9:45 a.m. on the upper west terrace of the Capitol immediately before the official swearing-in ceremonies. William R. Green, dean of the School of Music, will lead the choir.
Peters said he hopes one day to become a pastor. He joined choir to begin with only because some of his friends were signing up, he said.
“I did it and didn’t think I was going to get in,” he said. “It is a hobby (singing), but it’s also a calling because it is more of a ministry choir than it is a performance choir.”
Cannon said that while he’s excited to be in the inauguration ceremonies, he’s ecstatic about getting to be in the same geographical area as R&B artist Beyonce, who is slated to sing the national anthem. He was sitting in his microeconomics class last week when his phone nearly exploded with all the texts he was receiving from friends who learned the die-hard Beyonce fan would be in the same city on the same day as his beloved musician.
“I literally started sobbing in class, and everybody in class started looking at me,” he said. “I’m going to do anything it takes to be able to meet her.”
Cannon said he’s performed before large audiences before, but that was in front of 3,000 at a church in Ohio, not for hundreds of thousands.
“This choir was put together last semester, and they told us over Christmas break to study nine pieces of music, and we would study individually as much as we could (in addition to later group practices),” he said. “It was hours and hours of me and my piano at home.”
Brown said she’s been in one of the choirs since her freshman year, but she’s always enjoyed music.
“I was singing and humming before I could even talk,” she said. “I’ve always loved music. Growing up, it’s like God didn’t give me any other options.”
She wants to eventually use her talents in some sort of ministry and is considering teaching as well, she said. Brown said she went to the inauguration four years ago to perform with a high school choir in an inaugural festival, but that group was near the Washington monument. This one will be on the steps of the Capitol.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” Brown said. “I may never get the chance to do this ever again. I tell people, ‘It doesn’t matter who you voted for. It doesn’t matter what political party you belong to. This is a chance to minister to everyone.’”
While the students said they’re not allowed to disclose which selections they’ll be performing, they said the show is expected to last for several minutes. They have 30 minutes worth of music prepared. The song themes include hope, patriotism and looking to God.
The performance isn’t expected to be televised live, but university officials are planning for it to stream live from www.leeuniversity.edu. A two-minute clip featuring the choir is also expected to be available after the day of the inaugural ceremonies at www.foxnews.com.
“I’m just thankful to the leadership group at the school for allowing us to do this,” Peters said. “Our school decided to make this a priority for us. ... There’s also an opportunity to minister and to spread the hope of the gospel.”
Army band bassoonist is from Dalton
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dean Woods, a Dalton native, is scheduled to play with the Army Band “Pershing’s Own” during the presidential inaugural parade on Monday. Woods plays the bassoon.
According to biographical information on the band’s website (www.usarmyband.com), Woods joined the band in 2000. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and has won several awards at the Gillet International bassoon competition held around the world each year. He is currently principal bassoon of the Alexandria and the Fairfax Symphonies (Virginia). He also performs with the National Symphony.
Woods plays guitar and mandolin in a group he started called The Army Bluegrass Group. His wife Marlisa is also in “Pershing’s Own,” and they live with their two children, Annalisa and David, in Fairfax.
The band, founded in 1922, is designed to provide music for official ceremonies and special events. It’s considered the premier Army band and consists of 99 members from other Army bands.
Additional information from Army Band press release