FINNEYTOWN, Ohio — After school, for an hour or two the past week, a select group of students at Finneytown High School has been practicing. Those walking down the halls can hear them quietly singing, "Teenage wasteland, teenage wasteland" — the refrain from The Who's smash hit, "Baba O'Riley."
The kids —seven singing and three playing string instruments — will perform with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers at their historic concert May 15 at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati.
"I definitely am going to be nervous," said Anna Tenhunfeld.
Tenhunfeld is a senior who was recently awarded a PEM scholarship to study the arts at Mount St. Joseph University next fall. That scholarship was set up by Finneytown alums wanting to honor the three students who died outside the Who concert in 1979: Stephan Preston, Jackie Eckerle and Karen Morrison.
Tenhunfeld's dad, Denny, is a Finneytown alumnus, so she's heard the stories about what happened on Dec. 3, 1979. She knows The Who has never returned to Cincinnati since then. And she knows that she and her fellow performers are almost exactly the same age as those who died 42 years ago.
"I have no doubt it's going to be emotional," Tenhunfeld said.
The song chosen happens to be her favorite song from The Who. A fan since she was a little girl, Tenhunfeld said she plays it on repeat on her phone.
Meanwhile, some of the other kids who will perform with her are not as well-versed in The Who's music. In fact, the youngest performer, 13-year-old Claire Adams, had never heard of the band when she was told she'd been given the honor of performing with them.
"I was, like, so confused because I had no idea who The Who was," Adams said. "Then I actually heard the songs and, like, did the research and stuff and I was like, 'OK, this is like a big like, once in a lifetime opportunity. Let's do it!'"
Dakota Brooks, 17, said while The Who hadn't been in his playlist before, he knew who they were and had just learned about legendary rock bands at school.
"And then a day later, here I am," Brooks said. "(I'm told) 'You guys are gonna sing with The Who!'"
Now all professed fans of the band, the students say as the day draws nearer, they are excited and a little bit scared.
"17,000 people, that's a lot," Brooks said. "So probably going to step out on that stage. Initially, probably going to freak out a little bit. And then music's gonna start. And I'm just going to go with it from there."
They know they have only a small role in the entire concert, but it will be an emotional one.