Tuscola grad to sing at presidential inauguration
Rather than watching the 57th Presidential Inauguration on television later this month, one Tuscola graduate will actually be taking part in the ceremony.
Emily Christopher, who graduated from the high school in 2009, was recently selected to sing with a special choir from Lee University, a private liberal arts college in Tennessee, at the event.
The news came as a pleasant surprise to the students, who were packed into the university’s Conn Center for one of the weekly chapel services on Nov. 1.
Although they knew a special guest, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., would be making a speech, they had no idea what exactly he was announcing.
“The words he said that have sort of become famous around the school were, ‘We don’t know who will be inaugurated as president this January, but we do know who will be singing that day and it’s the Lee University Choir,’” she said.
Then, a wave of shock and excitement filled the room.
Each of the 200 members of the performing choir, called the Lee Festival Choir, was selected from the university’s seven choirs.
Directors of each choir worked with the dean of the music department to choose the most dedicated singers from each choir to form the Lee Festival Choir.
Christopher was one of 28 people in the Lee University Campus Choir to be chosen to sing during the inauguration.
Currently a senior double majoring in youth ministry and music and minoring in theology, Christopher said she’s gotten used to staying busy and always working hard for her goals.
Growing up in Haywood County, she was always involved in music — from the children’s choir at Junaluska Elementary School all the way through Summit at Tuscola High School, she knew it’s what she wanted to pursue in college.
She even spent several years singing with Voices in the Laurel and Music Works studio.
Those experiences primed her love of music and performance, she said.
Although being a voice major is difficult, she said she’s pushed herself to new limits being a part of the Lee University Campus Choir under the direction of Jim Phillips and serving as student director for the past three semesters.
She’s also toured Scotland, Ireland, England and Ecuador as part of the choir and is looking forward to touring New England next summer.
Once the members of the special choir was chosen, they wasted no time getting to work on the nine songs they will sing a capella immediately before the official swearing in of the president.
Most of the songs are classical and patriotic, but Christopher hopes it will be a source of inspiration to those who listen.
“A lot of the music talks about hope and peace, especially with the recent events that have happened in our country, the music we’re singing focuses in on finding that hope,” she said.
One of the pieces selected for the ceremony is “This Land is Your Land,” arranged by a graduate student at the university.
Even though she’s home enjoying Christmas break, she doesn’t get a break from practicing the songs at least two times each day. That’s because the pieces must be memorized and as close to perfection as possible.
Two other choirs — Grammy award winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and Staten Island’s PS 22 Chorus — will also be performing.
Choirs must be specifically invited to be a part of the ceremony.
Sen. Alexander issued the invitation to Lee University on behalf of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, of which he serves as vice chairman.
Being on television, seeing the ceremony in person and performing on the same bill as two world-renowned choirs is enough to overwhelm Christopher with excitement.
But as a professional choir member, she said she’s sure the butterflies and nerves will dissipate when she takes the stage on Jan. 21 at the inauguration.
Although she’s been to Washington D.C. with the campus choir three times before, this experience is sure to stand out above the others.
“It’s such a great honor for me to be doing this. I, of course, never thought I’d be able to do something like this. I’m just going to try to soak in everything I can at the moment because it will not happen twice,” she said.
Christopher is planning to graduate next December and hopes to find a job working in the music business industry. She is the daughter of Greg and Sherri Christopher.