When choir practices started this year at Pennfield, let’s just say most of the students probably didn’t know too much about the classic rock group Foreigner.
But they are huge fans of the band these days.
The Pennfield High School Choir is one of two finalists competing for a chance to sing on stage with Foreigner at Wings Event Center next month. Pennfield is involved in an online voting contest sponsored by the radio station WRKR in association with the May 19 concert in Kalamazoo.
“It is so exciting,” said choir member Cecilia Bronson, a senior. “We are all super excited when we heard we might get a chance to perform with someone famous like that. None of us have ever had a chance to do something like that before.”
Pennfield submitted a video of the choir singing “Dream On” by Aerosmith for the competition. Portage Northern, the other school in consideration, submitted its version of “I Wanna Know What Love Is” — which is the song the winning choir will actually sing on stage with Foreigner. Voting continues on the WRKR website at www.wrkr.com/sing-at-wings-foreigner-vote until Friday. The school with the most votes gets the spot on stage with the band and $500 for the school’s choir program.
Pennfield was already preparing “Dream On” for its spring concert when they heard about the competition. The only rules for the submitted video were that it had to be a classic rock song, so they stuck with that.
“We do that song very well, so I figured that was the way to go,” choir director Steve Bowen said. “I have not seen them as excited about anything in a long time. This is just part of a banner year for these kids. We hadn’t been to festival since before COVID. But we went this year, had a Division 1 rating … they have been on fire all year long.
“They just want to keep things going. They are stoked about maybe singing with someone like Foreigner.”
With a spot on stage at Wings Stadium at stake, the entire Pennfield school is seemingly rooting the choir on with the online voting numbers rolling in.
“They are voting constantly, getting their friends to vote,” Bowen said. “Our superintendent has wrapped her arms around us, has messages everywhere in the community about the contest. I am just astounded with the level of support from the administration regarding this.”
Bowen, who is the age of the parents of most of his singers (or even grandparents, he joked), has been a longtime Foreigner follower, and he is helping his students become fans of the late-1970s rock group as well.
“I have always loved Foreigner and the kids now are learning who Foreigner is,” Bowen said. “They are finding out about them, what they did, their songs. So they are becoming fans. But I think their parents are even more excited, and maybe even their grandparents.
“This is a real cool thing the band does. They do this all over the country, offering these opportunities to high schoolers, which is great.”
The choir has added its own twist to “Dream On”, which they hope will gain the attention of the voters. And they have become big fans of classic rock through the experience.
“We didn’t know much about them before, but we’re big fans of Foreigner now,” Bronson said. “But what I like most about this is that people are going to find out more about us through this competition. I think we have a really good music program and I want everyone to know that.”
Bill Broderick can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billbroderick.