Young Singers perform at NASCAR race

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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Rev up your engines and open your ears to the rhythms and harmonies of the Young Singers of West Georgia. Over the weekend, the talented youngsters traveled to the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama to perform “God Bless America” before the NASCAR Xfinity race.

“Young Singers is a wonderful organization that allows us to do things that a lot of people never get to do,” member Amelia Comerford said. “I’m 13, and I have already sung at a Braves game and the NASCAR race, which is super cool, and I’m very proud of that.”

According to YSWG Conductor & YSWG Artistic Director Stacey Hardigree, the choir received this opportunity from a NASCAR representative, who saw one of their performances and reached out with an offer to perform initially on July 4th.

Hardigree said NASCAR tried to get them to come in July but she turned it down due to summer break and being in-between transitioning students from last season to this season.

The representative called the following week and told Hardigree that they had an Oct. 1 position open.

“I just felt like it was a great opportunity for the kids and a great PR opportunity for Young Singers in general,” Hardigree said. “We ended up having 225 people from LaGrange go with us and took two charter buses with students and some parents.”

The Young Singers had roughly a month to prepare, Hardigree said.

“I’ve only had about five lessons with them this season,” Hardigree said. “Even though some of them are experienced and have been with me for a while, there are a ton of new students this year. Prepping for something like that is so much more than just learning the song. I tried to get the very best product out of my students that I could on short notice.”

Before hitting the track, the choir performed God Bless America for the Chick-fil-A staff at the Quintard Mall in Oxford, Alabama as a practice run with all 125 members.

“The Chick-fil-A worked with us and gotten all the food prepared so that when we walked in, we could eat,” Hardigree said. “So I said, ‘Well, let’s sing for the employees at Chick-fil-A who had all this ready for us because it was really helpful. We sang there, and it was just beautiful and you could see all of that hard work that we put in come together. All three of the choirs had never sung the piece together until that day.”

The choir would practice once in the lobby of Lafayette Society for Performing Arts and then at the mall before they were on TV, according to Hardigree.

“There were so many details that went into something like that,” Hardigree said. “It was really a joy, and I hope it’s something the choir will always remember. It was a life experience —something I feel like I have, through the years, tried to provide for my students.”

The experience of performing before the crowd at a NASCAR race allowed the students to be right in the middle of the action.

“We were able to go out onto the track and some of the big name drivers walked right by us and the kids were so excited to be on national TV,” Hardigree said. “NBC Sports and USA Today both covered the event. We had TV directors telling us what to do and counting us down to the moment we would go live on air— all that production and experience for them to get to see and be a part of was really valuable and fun to be a part of.”

Emmi Horlander, Senior at LaGrange Academy said the big crowd — and getting to watch the race — made for a fun weekend.

“My favorite part was having the opportunity to sing in front of so many people and getting to watch the race happen,” Horlander said.

Hardigree said the best part of the whole NASCAR experience was being able to be a part of the Talladega Garage Experience and having the families of the choir and audience cheering them on.

“The experience of getting to walk out onto the track and see where the whole thing takes place up close was the most memorable part, I think for all of us,” she said. “The cheer from everybody screaming and yelling at the end was wonderful too, thousands of people were cheering after we finished our last note.”

“I think the most memorable part for me, would definitely be the smile that was on Miss Stacey’s face,” Comerford said.  “She was proud of us and that goes to show that she really does enjoy teaching us— that was sweet.”