Karns Middle students to perform with Chris Blue

Josh FloryOur Town Youth

Musicians from Karns Middle School will perform for a good cause on Thursday night – and in the process, they’ll share the stage with a pop star.

In September, the Songbirds Foundation provided 25 free guitars and accessories to Karns Middle, as part of a program that also provided guitars to five other Knox County schools.

In connection with that gift, the foundation sent Knoxville singer Chris Blue – famous for winning Season 12 of “The Voice” – to Karns Middle, where he performed and spoke to students from chorus teacher Kami Lunsford’s class.

Not long after, Lunsford got a call from Blue’s manager, who had an exciting request: The singer wanted students to perform with him during a benefit concert at the Bijou Theatre on Dec. 19.

Recalling the conversation later, Lunsford said she was standing in the hallway during a class change and was so shocked that “it felt like all the noise in the hallway quit buzzing.”

“And I said as calmly as I could, ‘Sure, we would love to do that. I will take care of this.’ And then I hung up the phone and danced all the way back into the classroom. The kids didn’t know what was going on; they thought I lost my mind.”

Students from the Karns Middle School chorus practice.

The Bijou concert will raise money for the Songbirds Foundation “Guitars for Kids” program, and will feature music from Blue’s new album “Fresh Start.” On at least one of the songs, 25 students from Karns are scheduled to perform – 15 as backup singers, and 10 as guitarists.

Evelyn McNeeley, an eighth-grader at Karns, will be one of the backup singers. During Blue’s visit to the school, she got to sing a solo – a portion of the Ariana Grande song “Santa Tell Me” – and Evelyn said Blue talked about the importance of following his dreams.

“I just feel like he has such confidence,” Evelyn said. “So I need to take some of that confidence that he has and put it in my own self and have confidence in what I do.”

The chance to perform at a venue like the Bijou should be a confidence-booster for Evelyn and her classmates.

Noah Johnson, a sixth-grader at Karns, said he’s excited about the opportunity and also nervous “because I’ve never really performed for such a big audience.”

Asked what advice he’s gotten from Lunsford, Noah said, “Practice a lot, make sure you have it right and stay calm.”

For her part, Lunsford is excited about the chance to support a program that has already benefited Karns, and she’s confident in her students.

“My kids are amazing,” she said. “They work really hard, they’re not afraid to do things, to put themselves out there and of course they love this whole thing.”

Josh Flory is a multi-media specialist with Knox County Schools and writes this blog, Hall Pass, for the KCS website.

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