For the East Valley High School choir, the big moment is almost here.
On Wednesday night at the Spokane County Interstate Fair, the singers will perform with legendary rock band Foreigner. In the penultimate number of the night, the teens will sing the chorus of Foreigner’s biggest hit, “I Want to Know What Love is.”
Until then, their emotions will run the gamut, a life-imitates-art experience drawn straight from a soundtrack of Foreigner’s top singles.
When the big moment arrives, will they be cold as ice or so nervous they’ll be afflicted with double vision – or an urgent need to use the restroom?
“It will be a little of both,” choir member Dean Roberson said before rehearsal Monday morning at East Valley. “It’s so intertwined that it makes me feel gross and amazing at the same time.”
“But when you step on the stage that nervousness goes away,” Roberson said.
For senior Shaylee Brown, the nerves are already gone.
“Wednesday’s my birthday, so it will be a celebration,” she said.
One thing for sure: When the EVHS choir takes the stage, it won’t feel like the first time, because they’ve been practicing since May 23.
That’s when the folks from KISS 98.1 radio showed up at EVHS, which convened an all-school assembly to announce that the choir won a regional contest to appear with Foreigner.
“I didn’t even know about it until they showed up here,” choir director Andrea LaPlante said.
Local high school talent has been a fixture in Foreigner concerts for at least a decade, said the band’s publicist John Lappen.
“The band loves having the kids on the stage,” Lappen said. “It gets the band all pumped up, because some of them were in public high school choirs.”
“The best part for me is that the kids get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to jump on a stage with a band like Foreigner,” Lappen said.
For the EVHS singers, that chance was born when LaPlante heard the advertisement on KISS, asking local high schools to submit an entry to appear with Foreigner.
“We heard the music and rehearsed it, sent in a video … and we won,” LaPlante said.
The only downside: Only 25 choir members can appear on stage with Foreigner. Before the video was recorded, LaPlante lined up the entire choir and picked those who showed the best stage presence.
“That was the hard part,” LaPlante said.
Foreigner has many reasons for inviting local talent onstage, Lappen said. The biggest is the chance to donate to music-oriented groups.
One of them is Music in the Schools, a nonprofit founded in 1995 that works to inspire youth to participate in music as part of their education.
“Music in the Schools has been around for a long time before we got involved,” Lappen said.
“But we want to help keep music and arts education alive in the schools,” Lappen said. “When schools have budget cuts, it seems like the first thing they cut is the arts, and that was an impetus to the guys to come up with the idea of having high school talent on stage.”
The band also donates to Shriners Hospitals for Children, more than $1 million, Lappen said.
For East Valley junior Kasen Buck, choir wasn’t even an afterthought when he registered for classes as freshman.
“My schedule got messed up and they accidentally put me in here,” Buck said.
“I don’t like to quit things, so I decided to give it a week,” Buck said. Two years later, he’s still there.
So is Casey Noack, who graduated last spring but was back in the choir room Monday morning.
“After graduation there’s not many things you miss about high school, but this is one of those things,” said Noack, who called choir “one of those special things, like a family.”
Foreigner, which has sold 80 million records worldwide, is in the midst of a hectic summer tour. On Monday night, lead vocalist Kelly Hansen, bass guitarist Jeff Pilson and the rest of the band played in Bonner, Montana.
Wednesday’s show in Spokane is the first of three in as many nights. Foreigner will perform in Boise on Thursday and Salt Lake City on Friday.
Two days later they’ll be in Toppenish, Washington, and on Sept. 18 at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup.
Wednesday’s concert begins at 7 p.m. at the Main Stage. Tickets are $35-$75.
Lappen promises a “high-energy concert” featuring most of the band’s major hits. They’ll l probably include “Jukebox Hero,” “Double Vision,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “Cold as Ice” and “Long, Long Way From Home.”
Foreigner will save the best for next-to-last, when the East Valley choir joins them on the stage.
“When we go on the stage and see family and friends, what more could you ask for?” Roberson said.
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