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Foreigner concert in Cleveland features local high school choir

  • Eleven members of the Cleveland Central High School choir, under the direction of Charles Ross, joined Foreigner on stage to sing “Don’t Stop Believing.” 

The product of a public school education, Jeff Pilson says that his first exposure to music was in his school in Longview, Washington. He grew up to play bass for Foreigner, one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time.

Formed in 1976, Foreigner has recorded ten multi-platinum albums and they have had 16 Top-30 hits. They are one of the most popular rock acts in the world and continually sell out shows everywhere they play.

Now on their farewell tour, Foreigner made an appearance earlier this month at the Bologna Performing Arts Center in Cleveland, where they played their biggest hits to a sold-out audience. 

“We will be on the road for nine months for this tour,” says Pilson. “And while this is the farewell tour, Foreigner’s music is unfinished.”

As a special addition to their tour, the band is tapping high school choral music students to join them onstage to sing backup in each city where they perform.

“It’s part of our work with the GRAMMY Foundation,” explains Pilson.

The Foundation donates money to support projects that study the impact of music.  Foreigner’s long-time commitment to music education has enabled the group to raise more than $300,000 for school music programs and other children’s charities.

The concert in Cleveland featured 11 members of the Cleveland Central High School choir, under the direction of Charles Ross. The students joined Foreigner on stage to sing “Don’t Stop Believing.” 

Ross says the experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students to experience a major professional concert.

“It was a big eye-opener for the students,” he says. “Not only did they have the experience of singing onstage with Foreigner, they got to experience the lighting, the staging, and the crowd. They had a blast doing it.” 

Ross says he was contacted by Foreigner’s manager, John Lappen about the performance.

“He sent us the music about three months before the concert so that we would have plenty of time to practice. By the time they hit the stage, they were very prepared.” 

The song was released in October 1981, decades before the students were born, so none of them were familiar with the song prior to hearing it in class.

“I was born in the 1990s,” says Ross. “I knew about Foreigner, and I was familiar with the song. The students really liked it.”

The song was the last song of the show, so the students didn’t have the opportunity to watch the whole concert.

“There was an encore song after they performed that they got to watch,” says Ross. 

Pilson says the enthusiasm of the students at their performance is contagious.

“It’s like being in an episode of Glee,” he laughs. “They are all so well-prepared and they do a fabulous job. It really adds a lot to the show.” 

The band makes a monetary donation to each school’s choir that performs with them.

“This program means a lot to me,” says Pilson. “Because I had a teacher who encouraged me to look at a career in music, I am where I am now. I started playing cello at age 11 and switched to bass shortly after that. I had an amazing orchestra teacher that I am so grateful for.” 

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