Students Campaign to Land Professors a Presidential Gig

Nick Balkin
November 21, 2008
Donna McElroy sings at Berklee's 60th Anniversary Concert.
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

50 Berklee College of Music students have launched a grassroots campaign to help two of their teachers, vocalist Donna McElroy and pianist Jetro da Silva, land one helluva gig: a televised performance of "America the Beautiful" at the presidential inauguration in January.

To support the performance application filed with the Armed Services Inaugural Committee, students uploaded this YouTube video of McElroy and da Silva giving a stirring rendition of the piece at the 2004 inauguration of Berklee president Roger Brown.

Watch the video:

The students' strategy is to increase the probability of the link reaching the president-elect or his "right-hand ears" by using the same tools and tactics Obama used to win the election. This week the students began email, social networking, public relations, phone, and word-of-mouth efforts to draw attention to the performance video.

Donna McElroy, voice professor, has taught at Berklee since 1995. She is a Grammy nominee, a Dove Award–winner, and an arranger/vocalist on gold and platinum releases by Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Amy Grant, and BeBe and CeCe Winans. Television appearances include The Tonight Show and the Grammy Awards.

Jetro da Silva, is a professor of ensemble at Berklee, as well as the former assistant chair of the piano department, and an alumnus of the college. He has performed with Whitney Houston, George Duke, Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, Earth, Wind & Fire, B.B. King, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, Bonnie Raitt, Luther Vandross, and many others. A native of Brazil, he just recently became a United States citizen and cast his first vote ever in the 2008 presidential election.