WASHINGTON - An Anderson High School grad and current music student will sing during the 57th presidential inauguration on Monday.
Kristen Hollowood, a 22-year-old vocal performance student at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., is one of 200 students in the university's Festival Choir who will perform immediately before President Barack Obama is publicly sworn in at the United States Capitol. They are scheduled to perform at about 9:30 a.m.
"It's pretty exciting for us," Hollowood said while she was touring the sites in Washington, D.C. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, one that not many Americans get to partake in, so how could you not be excited?"
The group will perform a "great balance" of songs ranging from spirituals to patriotic music, Hollowood said.
While she might have some pre-performance jitters, Hollowood is no stranger to the stage. She's been performing on stage since she was a young girl and worked with the Cincinnati Children's Theater.
"I've been performing since I was a little kid – singing and acting," she said. "I've never done anything on this scale, though. This is all new and very, very exciting."
Hollowood gives her hometown, namely her former voice coach Karl Resnik and the Musical Arts Center, credit for creating a solid musical foundation. She plans to move back to Cincinnati after graduation in May to teach vocal lessons at the center.
The voice training Hollowood received in Cincinnati was not lost on the choir directors at Lee University. Hollowood was chosen by the directors of the university's seven choral ensemble groups, which hold regular auditions for members. She said she didn't envy those doing the picking because of the difficult choices they had to make.
"All the ensemble directors got together and picked the group that they felt made the balance right," Hollowood said. "It had to be difficult because there are so many different groups and so many talented singers at Lee, but they did a great job making sure the balance was absolutely perfect."
While excited to show off her talent in front of the country and arguably the most powerful person in the world, Hollowood battled some mixed feelings about her selection.
"It's always sad to have half of your group not able to go on a trip or participate in an event. But everyone knows this isn't about individuals. It's about Lee [University] and performing for the country."
That same group-first mentality has Hollowood excited to sing as part of a choir, instead of as a solo artist.
"There's no feeling like having 200 voices singing with you. It's just so powerful," she said, also admitting that a solo performance might be a little overwhelming.
The group was hand-picked by Sen. Lamar Alexander, who represented the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. He invited the choir in November after attending one of their performances.
Hollowood said Alexander set up the meeting with Lee University's president, Paul Conn, but it was kept secret so the members of the group would be surprised.
"We were completely shocked when Senator Alexander came to our concert. That's how we found out," Hollowood said. "I wish people could have seen our faces."
Alexander said he recommended the Lee musicians because "their great talent and inspirational musicianship will thrill the millions of people who will be watching the inauguration of our president," according to a press release from the university.
The vocal ensembles at Lee have appeared around the world at venues as varied as Carnegie Hall, the NBC television show "Sing Off," and St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. The groups present choral masterworks, pop and gospel music, and standard classical literature, performing composers ranging from Duruflé to Bach to John Rutter.
Hollowood and the group of performers aren't just staying cooped up in their hotel rooms, though, not after the group took five buses and traveled 13 hours to get to the Washington, D.C., area.
"We're taking some time to see the sites. The Library of Congress is just incredible. It all is, really," she said, making sure to note that Monday's performance was never far from her mind. "I think I always have the performance in the back of the mind. I'll just be looking at something and then I'll think, ‘We're going to perform at the presidential inauguration.'"
The entire campus of Lee, which Hollowood describes as a "very musical place," will be tuning in to watch the choir perform. The university has established multiple viewing locations across the campus and will be streaming the event live.
"Since classes are canceled on Monday the other students will be able to watch the performance and the whole event, which is really nice. This performance isn't about the ensemble in Washington. It's about Lee," she said.
You can click on the video below (mobile users can go to the following link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk-TQ3qEBZ4) to listen to the choir's sound check in Washington.