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On stage with Bobby McFerrin

SANTA FE, N.M. — When Bobby McFerrin takes the stage at the Santa Fe Opera on Thursday, it will be more than just a concert.

And it will be more than a fundraiser.

Bobby McFerrin performs a benefit concert for Partners in Education on Sept. 5 at the Santa Fe Opera. (Courtesy of AMP Concerts)

It is also be a community participation event. There will be as many as 40 local choral students from Santa Fe and Capital high schools, Ortiz Middle School and Nina Otero Community School joining in with the renowned jazz vocalist. The kids are expected to sing along with McFerrin for a few improvisational songs.

McFerrin, a 10-time Grammy Award-winner, was recently honored as one of the 2020 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters. He is known for his hit, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

McFerrin, who was not available for an interview, will be performing in a benefit show for the Partners in Education Foundation for the Santa Fe Public Schools.

Ruthanne Greeley, Partners in Education executive director, said McFrerrin’s participation is a tremendous boon.

“I was really excited to have an artist who’s known for, among other things, his work for education and kids, and bringing music to the greater public,” she said. ” … music education is something that’s very important to us here.”

The event also is expected to be a significant money raiser for the foundation, Greeley said.

“It is a chunk of our budget,” she said. “We get our money from so many different places. We have great sponsors who are business members. But we’re pretty grassroots, so an event like this brings not just funds that we need, but also a lot of exposure to members of the public who might not know who we are, but are going to a Bobby McFerrin concert. So the publicity helps us tell our story, as well. So, it’s not just about the money, even though the money is significant.”

And when you add in the fact that the community gets to participate in the concert, that makes it all particularly special, Greeley said.

“What a great experience to be able to perform on the opera stage,” she said. “That’s so meaningful, I think. A lot of kids in our public schools don’t get a chance to get up on stage at the opera.”

Orlando Perea, 17, plans to savor every minute of it.

A senior at Santa Fe High, Perea said he can’t wait to get on stage with McFerrin.

“I think it is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “Not many high school students get a chance to do this, especially working with a 10-time Grammy winner.”

A longtime singer, Perea said he never really thought he’d have the chance to perform with a star like McFerrin.

“When I first heard about it, I was in shock,” Perea said. “You hear about other people doing things like this. But to have a chance to do it yourself, it’s quite exciting.”

Bringing in younger singers also helps make it a fun time, he said.

“I think it’s going to be an amazing bonding experience,” Perea said. “Choir isn’t just an in-school thing. You have so many opportunities, and you can do so much and there are so many opportunities through singing. To be able to share that with younger kids is honestly a bonding moment, for both us and younger middle-schoolers.”

Jazz is all about improvisation. At Thursday’s show, the students will be brought on stage to perform alongside McFerrin without any practice sessions.

“He works with them right on stage and then they will sing,” Feeley said. “He’ll teach them some phrases and they’ll sing back to him.”

Partners in Education works to help teachers in the classroom. For the McFerrin concert, the organization also is looking for individual donors to put up $100 to sponsor teachers to attend the concert.

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