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Steel Valley choir to share stage with classic rock icon Foreigner

| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 7:54 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Jazzmin Jiles, pointing, belts out lyrics to Foreigner's 'I Want to Know What Love Is' as members of the Steel Valley High School choir rehearse for Friday's performance with the band at Carnegie Library of Homestead.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Steel Valley High School seniors Rachael Brizes and Courtney Wallace rehearse with fellow choir members for Friday's performance with Foreigner at Carnegie Library of Homestead.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Steel Valley High School choir members including, front row from left, Leah Mooney, Melissa Tomcik and Aja Brookins, rehearse Foreigner's 'I Want to Know What Love Is' during an in-school practice session for Friday's performance with the band at Carnegie Library of Homestead.

Steel Valley High School choir members will have the experience of a lifetime sharing the stage with an iconic rock band on Friday night.

Students will perform the classic rock staple “I Want to Know What Love Is” with Foreigner when the band plays at the Carnegie Library of Homestead's Music Hall.

“It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” senior Rachel Brizes said. “It's going to be amazing just to be up there and to be able to sing with my dad's favorite band.”

Foreigner, an American band despite its name, has had 10 multi-platinum albums and 16 top-30 hits since its formation in 1976, and remains a popular rock attraction around the world.

Yet some choir members, who range in age from 15-19, didn't know of the band and had to learn from relatives.

“I don't know too much about the band, but I do know the song we're singing,” Rachel said.

“My dad told me he went to see them in concert and it was one of the best concerts he's been to.”

“My parents are so excited,” senior James Spelman said. “I guess they were huge fans of Foreigner back then. I think it's interesting that they're excited to go to the concert because it's someone they actually know.”

“My mom was telling me that she loved them when she was growing up, and I'm just really excited to get the chance to sing with them,” freshman Jaime Wolf said. “She said she was really happy that she could see her daughter get to sing with them.”

“I know just the song that we're singing,” freshman Savannah Merrill said. “I've heard it on the radio and in movies, stuff like that. I think it's great. I'm always into entertaining. I want to be famous, and in the entertainment world and Hollywood and all that. I think it's fantastic to be with (entertainers) who already have been there and done that and know the business.”

The choir is directed by music teacher Sharon Adams, who heads the fine arts department and is retiring in June.

She said Foreigner is the most famous group the choir will have shared the stage with in her 23-year career at Steel Valley.

Adams prepared her young singers by showing them YouTube videos of other high school groups performing with Foreigner.

Other students also are feeling the music.

“We were singing and rehearsing one day and the middle school was getting out,” Adams said. “Next thing you know, I had 50 middle school kids singing along to ‘I Want To Know What Love Is.' I don't know how they know it, but they know it.”

Foreigner typically has a contest for high schools in the areas where the band is scheduled to appear. Choir directors submit a video performance of a snippet or full-length song. The videos are posted online and voters choose their favorites.

Steel Valley's choir did not have to compete for its place on stage. Selecting the students to perform “was a no-brainer for me,” library director Carol Shrieve said.

“My response to the contest was, if any choir was getting up on stage to perform, it has to be the very same students who study at our library, swim in our pool, play basketball after school in our gym, and whose parents and grandparents have done the very same thing,” she said.

“We need to showcase the very school district that supports us. And besides, Steel Valley's choir is rockin' good.”

Adams said she thought Shrieve was playing head games when she got the call about the show.

“When Carol called me from the library I actually thought it was a tribute band,” Adams said. “(Foreigner) has sold out stadiums, and we're singing with this group. That, to me, is amazing. They really enjoy the high school students, and I think that they realize this is where they're from, where their roots were established in the music business, and they just want to give back.”

Foreigner is donating $500 to the district's music program.

Students will sell Foreigner CDs before and after the show for $20 each. A portion of the proceeds benefit The Grammy Foundation. Those who purchase CDs prior to the show will receive a raffle ticket to win a signed Les Paul guitar.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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