Singing to lawmakers
Jan 18, 2013 | 807 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two months after 200 talented Lee University vocalists leave their lyrical footprint on Washington, D.C., at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, another exuberant group of local singers — only slightly younger — will be taking their show to Nashville.

We speak of the Michigan Avenue Elementary School Chorus — whose numbers total 50 voices — which has been invited to perform “The Star Spangled Banner” to open a session of Tennessee’s 108th General Assembly in Nashville.

The patriotic rendition by these young stars will occur March 21.

Their invitation, like the Lee University Festival Choir’s, came by special messenger. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, visited Cleveland to issue the official inaugural invite to the U.S. Capitol where the emotional ceremony will occur.

The youngsters from Michigan Avenue Elementary, one of many sources of pride within the Bradley County Schools system, received their invitation to Nashville from state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, who represents the 22nd Legislative District which includes part of Bradley County, as well as Meigs and Polk counties.

Watson’s surprise visit during the choir’s holiday performance in November came on behalf of the full membership of the Tennessee Legislature, Gov. Bill Haslam and his state cabinet, and the remaining members of Bradley County’s legislative delegation: State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, who represents the 9th Senatorial District; state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Ooltewah who represents the 10th Senatorial District; and state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, who represents the 24th Legislative District.

Opportunities for promising students at all levels — primary, secondary and collegiate — to take their talents public are vital. It builds confidence. It expands horizons. It grows the imagination. It opens eyes and doors to the real world and to a surrounding life that awaits their creativity.

Perhaps this was the thinking of a local educator — chorus director Cara Rogers — who chose to raise the bar on her students’ education by seeking an opportunity so rare. In past years, the Michigan Avenue Elementary ensemble — which is an audition chorus — has performed at Dollywood for its annual spring trip. Students were assuming the same journey for 2013, as they began to ask questions of their teacher. Little did they know this year’s vision was bigger, brighter and far more challenging.

And, it came with its own legislative messenger. Watson is not only a local member of the state Legislature, he holds the distinction of chairing the House Judiciary Committee.

Explaining her vision to our newspaper, Rogers explained, “This year I wanted to see if there was a different experience available that would be meaningful to [the students].”

She found it through Watson who appeared at the group’s holiday performance to announce the big news to the kids: “Each year a school is chosen ... and you’ve got an invitation to come to perform in front of the governor and the whole General Assembly.”

Mouths dropped open. Eyes grew to the size of saucers. Gleeful smiles lit the room.

To say the Michigan Avenue kids were “thrilled” truly was the understatement of the day, but Rogers also pointed to the experience in store for her students. “I think what excites me the most is they will be able to see our state lawmakers in session,” she explained.

Good teachers feel the same positive vibes about opportunity as do their students.

We believe Cara Rogers is one such teacher.

Her insight, and her outreach, are giving state government leaders another reason to believe in Cleveland.

Cleveland, and the whole of Bradley County, are giving her another reason to believe in why she teaches.