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Singer people's choice for inauguration.

Byline: Bonnie Adams

MILLBURY - In 2004, two Berklee School of Music professors dazzled the audience attending the inauguration of the school's new president, Roger Brown, with a spectacular rendition of "America the Beautiful."

Now the school's students are hoping that vocalist and Millbury resident Donna McElroy, along with pianist Jetro da Silva, will be selected to showcase their talents at another upcoming inauguration - that of President-elect Barack Obama.

At the start of each school year, professor Stephanie Kellar shows the video of the 2004 performance to her marketing students to help inspire them. This year, through discussions with her classes, the idea was formulated to see if they could get the two professors on the performance agenda at an Obama inaugural event.

The students readily embraced the idea, Ms. Kellar said, even though they would not receive any credit for it.

"This is just an extra project that they agreed to take on," she said. "But it's also a wonderful opportunity to put a marketing plan together, execute it and then see tangible results."

First, the students filed an application with the Armed Services Inaugural Committee, the group that approves all potential performers. And although they did not have any funding for the project, what they did have were many of the Internet tools that Obama himself used in his presidential campaign.

After a clip of the 2004 performance was loaded onto YouTube, the students spread the word of their mission through e-mail and the social networking site Facebook. To date, more than 24,000 people had watched the online clip.

For Ms. McElroy, the project has left her both excited and humbled.

"There's so much great talent out there - I really thought my chances were slim, if not nil," she said. "But now I'm kind of getting excited. It's amazing how much this thing has grown."

Ms. McElroy has enjoyed success before, as a performer and arranger in Nashville, Tenn., working with such noted stars as Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks before joining the Berklee faculty in 1995. But the opportunity to appear in front of the nation's first black president, she said, would not only be an incredible experience for her but also for her mother.

"She is not that far removed from the days of slavery and segregation," Ms. McElroy said. "So for her to be there to see me perform would be so amazing.

"But I am very faithful and know that God is in the middle of everything. If it's meant to be, I'll be ready," she added.

"The success of this project so far has been mainly due to the fact that we don't have to `sell' the video - it speaks for itself," student Claire Finley said of the response the project has received.

"It's not just a good performance, it's a great one and a very moving one," student Brian Caine added. "It's very inspiring, just like our new leader."

For Mr. da Silva, a native of Brazil and new American citizen who voted for the first time in November, the opportunity to play for the new president would be "very meaningful.

"But the students deserve so much credit for moving this forward," he said. "I am humbled and extremely touched by their efforts."

"So many people have seen the video and been moved by it," Ms. Kellar said. "It embodies everything that Berklee is about."

To see the 2004 clip of McElroy and da Silva, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuHNwV5fDp4.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Millbury resident Donna McElroy, who teaches at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, performs in concert.

PHOTOG: SUBMITTED PHOTO
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 18, 2008
Words:605
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