On Monday, millions of eyes will be fixed on President Barack Obama as he takes the oath of office. But for Johnston residents, his isn’t the only face they might recognize. Candace Solomon of Johnston will perform at the 57th Presidential Inauguration as part of the Lee University Festival Choir.
A senior majoring in human development, Solomon joined one of several Lee choirs in 2011. When the university was selected to perform, the best singers in each of those choirs were chosen to go to Washington. They were invited by United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee).
“I was really excited. I didn’t cry, but I was jumping up and down, I was so excited,” Solomon said.
The 200-member select Festival Choir will perform nine songs at the ceremony, under the direction of Dr. William Green, dean of the School of Music.
“We are so happy for these students. And we are so grateful to Senator Lamar Alexander for choosing Lee University to participate,” said Brian Conn, director of public information for Lee University. “Inaugural ceremonies are days when all patriotic Americans can be proud, but I’ve got to admit, we’ll stand even taller this Monday, knowing our students get to take part in such a historic occasion. They’ll never forget it.”
Solomon was born in Providence and moved to Johnston at the age of 15. She graduated from the Trinity Christian Academy but decided to leave the Ocean State for college. Lee University is located in Cleveland, Tenn., nearly 900 miles from Solomon’s native Rhode Island.
Despite the distance, it was an easy decision for Solomon.
“It was a school that was Christian-based and was also a very good school for becoming an educator,” she said. “I love Lee.”
Lee is a private university with fewer than 5,000 students. University vocalists have performed at Carnegie Hall, the NBC television show “Sing Off” and at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. In addition to appearances in North America, Lee’s choirs perform extensively in Europe and Asia and are scheduled to tour Indonesia and China this summer.
After graduating, Solomon hopes to work in counseling or social services. She isn’t sure if she will return to Rhode Island.
Growing up, singing wasn’t a priority for Solomon.
“I really only started singing this way in college,” she said.
Solomon doesn’t imagine she will pursue singing after graduation, but says it is something she enjoys doing and will likely always do as a hobby. She sings as an alto with Lee, and said the weeks leading up to the inauguration have been filled with rehearsals.
“We’ve had a lot of rehearsals, some early in the morning, some late at night, hours and hours of rehearsal – a lot of extra rehearsal,” she said.
The choir will fill five buses and leave for Washington on Friday morning, spending Saturday exploring the nation’s capital before a few more last-minute rehearsals. Solomon is looking forward to the trip. They plan to leave immediately after President Obama delivers his inaugural speech.
“On Saturday we’re spending most of the day sightseeing. I’ve seen Washington a few times before, so hopefully maybe I can go to a museum. I haven’t been able to go to any of those,” she said.
Solomon is especially looking forward to the inauguration, and so is her family.
“My family thought it was exciting, too,” she said, adding with a laugh, “I think they’re going to be mostly looking at my face to see my reactions instead of listening to the music.”
For her part, Solomon is hoping she can just stay calm and not let her nerves show through.
“It is nerve-wracking, but I’m trying to remember I’m not the only one up there,” she said. “I try not to think about it too much.”