February 24, 2014

PHS Ensemble sings with Foreigner

PLATTSBURGH — It was her first time at a rock concert, and Maeghan McDonald was singing onstage with her Plattsburgh High School classmates — and the band Foreigner.

The PHS Select Vocal Ensemble won their big chance in a WIZN-FM radio contest.

Voters weighed in online to choose among videos submitted by high-school choral groups; PHS sang 1984 Foreigners hit, “I Want to Know What Love Is” and came out on top.

A group from Willsboro Central School was the only other school that entered from the New York side of Lake Champlain.


The prize was the opportunity to sing the chorus of the song with Foreigner at Burlington’s Flynn Theater. In addition, Foreigner donated $500 to the winning music program. 

The event also promoted the Grammy Foundation, which Foreigner supports with merchandise sales. The Grammy Foundation is dedicated to keeping music in public schools.

“It was such an amazing opportunity,” said McDonald.


The adventure began when PHS Choral Director Bill Verity told his students about the contest. 

“They were psyched to do it,” Verity said.

Since there was no a capella arrangement for the chorus of “I Want to Know What Love Is,” he wrote one for his students.

Then, they began practice, and eventually produced a video that they were happy with. The video was submitted online, and on the WIZN website, students were able to monitor the results of the online voting.

McDonald recalled that the PHS group was always in the lead, although “it was close at one point.” 


Once the polls closed, they knew they had won — and things moved very quickly after that.

On Sunday, Feb. 16, the group met at the High School, received special T-shirts to wear and set off for Burlington. 

They had lunch at a mall there, and to the surprise of many shoppers, sang their arrangement at the food court. 

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