04/15/09 — Dillard singers to open conference

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Dillard singers to open conference

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 15, 2009 1:46 PM

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The Dillard Academy singers who are going to open the international convention in San Jose, Calif., are, from left, front row: Shakira James, Shidaija Williams, Carrington Patterson, Kristopher Bowden, Benjamin Patterson and Rodney Rouse. Second row, from left: Aniyah Smith, ShQuaila Thompson, Jaitianna Patterson, Connor Knox, William Coley, Nathaniel Knox and Xavier Tart. Not shown are Jeremiah Greenfield, VaShon Hooper and Kayla Boyette.

Sixteen elementary school singers are going to perform before hundreds later this month during an international convention in San Jose, Calif. And if you count others watching YouTube, the Dillard Academy Charter School Choir will perform before millions.

The group is billed to open the Food and Society 2009 Gathering for Good Food at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday in the San Jose Fairmont Hotel's Imperial Ballroom. Food and Society is one of several initiatives funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support the creation of locally-owned food systems that strengthen local businesses while promoting a safe and nutritious food supply.

The young performers' curriculum coordinator, Cheryl Alston, said the whole thing started when a couple of Kellogg Foundation representatives watched the youngsters perform during a presentation held at the school for the Wayne Food Initiative, which is similar in mission to Food and Society.

During the presentation, the school children sang a song they wrote. Their music teacher, Daniel Hooper put the song to the tune of "Old McDonald's Farm." The children named it "Dillard Academy Has a Garden."

Mrs. Alston said the ideas for the song came from their close encounters with the vegetables they grew in the school garden, which is the youth part of the Wayne Food Initiative.

"They tasted the veggies and had 'aha' moments. And that gave them the ideas for the words. It's a rhyming song wrapped around the produce they grew," she said. "And there's some rapping in it, too."

The men from Kellogg Foundation were so impressed, she said, that they shared a DVD of the performance with other foundation members and booked the performance at the convention.

The Kellogg Foundation is even footing the bill for the all-expense-paid trip. And on Monday, the children will board an airplane for San Jose to carry their message to the world about growing veggies and eating healthy.

The Kellogg Foundation has asked the children to perform two songs. In addition to "Dillard Academy Has a Garden," the children will sing "Growing Seeds of Happiness," which they also wrote.

Not a one among them admits to having any pangs of stage fright about performing before so large a group.

"I feel it will be an exciting and fun experience for me. I'm not nervous," said 9-year old Jaitianna Patterson, one of the singers who is going to California.

This is not going to be their first show, Hooper said. The youngsters are the school's touring choir and already have several engagements under their belts.