Friday, December 28, 2007

Triumphant choir won't quit


Fresh from TV victory, singers plan local show
Clash of the Choirs" has ended, but Nick Lachey's triumphant 20-member choir doesn't want to stop singing.

And Children's Hospital Medical Center, which received the $250,000 prize won on NBC's show Thursday, plans to put them on stage for a hometown concert.

"Cincinnati Children's would be thrilled and honored to participate in a concert by 'Team Lachey' and our hometown choir," said Jim Anderson, the hospital president and CEO. "It would give us the opportunity to thank each of the 20 choir members and their families, Nick Lachey and Steve Zegree (the choirmaster) for all of the time and effort they gave to showcase our wonderful city and Cincinnati Children's to the nation."

The 20 singers received a hero's welcome Friday afternoon at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport after an exhausting week in New York for the four-day reality TV competition.

They had started rehearsal at 7 a.m. Thursday, and had to wait until the end of the 8-10 p.m. live telecast to be declared the winners over choirs from Philadelphia, Houston, Oklahoma City and New Haven, Conn.

After celebrating in NBC's studio, the singers and their families and friends boarded a boat at 1:30 a.m. for a two-hour cruise on the East River and New York harbor. Lachey paid for the cruise, several choir members said.

When the boat stopped in front of the Statue of Liberty, all the choir members and Lachey went to the top deck and sang "What A Wonderful World," the 1967 Louis Armstrong song they had performed on TV Thursday night, said Dan Hilen, father of singer April Hilen, music director at Glen Este Middle School.

April Hilen has another reason to remember the trip. Her boyfriend, Andrew Tunney, 25, of Mason, proposed to her on the boat. "It was such a perfect moment," said Hilen, 24.

A crowd of about 150 family and fans greeted the singers as they strolled into the airport. Chants of "Team Lachey! Team Lachey!" filled the air as the singers ran up to greet loved ones. Children's Hospital representatives held signs saying "Thanks Team Lachey."

"It has been an incredible experience in New York," said Willrudale Underwood, 47, who sang in the choir with his daughter, Arielle, 20.

NBC several times showed Kathy Underwood in the studio audience - Will's wife and Arielle's mother - who is battling breast cancer. "Seeing her there gave me strength and courage," said Will, who sings with the Cincinnati Church of Christ choir in Deer Park.

"I've never experienced anything in my life like this before," said Carrie Scott-Taylor, a 1988 School for Creative & Performing Arts graduate. The Kennedy Heights resident was featured on NBC taking her daughter, Endiah, 8, to Children's Hospital for monthly sickle-cell anemia treatments.

"When I found out about the Children's Hospital connection, I really became passionate about being in the choir. I wanted to give back to them, for all the things they're doing for my family," said Scott-Taylor, mother of three.

With the $250,000, Children's Hospital will purchase newborn "isolettes" ($66,000 each) for transport ambulances and "giraffe beds" ($35,000 each), a special isolette that monitors body heat and humidity, for the Regional Center for Newborn Intensive Care, said Amy Caruso, hospital spokeswoman.

The choir victory Thursday also means the local singers will record a song with Lachey on his new album, due out in spring. "I will make good on that," Lachey said late Thursday.

If the hospital can pull together a homecoming concert, Lachey said he would be there. Lachey, a former College Hill resident, is a 1992 graduate of the School for Creative & Performing Arts.

"Everybody definitely wants to have a hometown Cincinnati concert. Everyone loves the idea," said choir member Meghan Watkins, 24, a Mount Lookout music therapist.


Lisa J. Baldwin, Oxford, Miami University senior music performance and journalism major; 2004 Lakota East High School graduate.

Kevin Chamberlain, 29, Wilmington, cell-phone salesman; Ohio University graduate and former Singing Men of Ohio (University) member; 1996 Wilmington High School graduate.

Mary Beth Fitzpatrick-King, 32, Aurora, Ind., new marketing officer for Grand Victoria Casino; vocalist for the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command Band (1997-2001); was interviewed on Thursday finale about her 3-year-old daughter, Melody Grace Fitzpatrick, dying of a brain tumor in 2003; a 1993 New Richmond High School graduate.

Shonda Fowler, 33, College Hill, University Hospital nurse; "NXS" host on WBQC-TV (5:30 p.m. Saturday, Channel 38); 1992 School for Creative & Performing Arts School graduate with Nick Lachey (her first kiss); performed with him in "Sweeney Todd," "A Christmas Carol" and "Little Miss Sunshine" at SCPA. Mother of two.

Jo'Ram Griffin, 22, Walnut Hills, clerical specialist in child care for Hamilton County Job and Family Services Department since February; 2004 SCPA graduate.

April Hilen, 24, Mason, Glen Este Middle School music director; 2002 Lakota East High School graduate. Mother of Cole, 5.

Christy Ledden, 21, Oxford, Miami University senior music education major; member of Miami's Collegiate Chorale; grew up in Hebron, moved to Mason at age 11; 2004 Mason High School graduate.

Erin McCamley, 18, Anderson Township, freshman music composition major at Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory; 2007 Cincinnati Country Day School graduate.

Chuck Merk, 35, Deerfield Township, Lakota West High school geometry teacher; former Miami University Men's Glee Club member; graduated from Miami University in 1995; has blogged about "Clash of the Choirs" on his Web site,

Scott Metcalf, 26, Hyde Park, software salesman; 2004 Miami University graduate (finance major); grew up in Kenwood; sang in Cincinnati BoyChoir in grade school; member of the Indian Hill High School Premieres show choir for three years; lived two years in Los Angeles to pursue being a singer-songwriter while working as a financial analyst; 2000 Indian Hill High School graduate.

Ellen Schnier, 25, North College Hill, a Ball State University music theater graduate who has worked in New York; sings with Trinity Lutheran Church choir in Mount Healthy; grew up in College Hill; 2001 McAuley High School graduate.

John Scott, 27, Covington, United Way of Greater Cincinnati senior relationship administrator; Covington Fellowship Church of God music director; member of the Fulfilled Christian music group with cousin Carrie Scott-Taylor, also a choir member; 1998 Winton Woods High School graduate.

Carrie Scott-Taylor, Kennedy Heights, stay-at-home mother; member of the Fulfilled Christian music group with cousin John Scott; featured on Wednesday's show with daughter Endiah, 8, who is treated monthly at Children's Hospital Medical Center for sickle-cell anemia; has two other children, Edward, 17, and Eriah, 14; 1988 SCPA graduate.

Kenny Smith, 42, Mount Washington, music director of First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati in Avondale; director of Peace & Serenity gospel group; 1983 SCPA graduate.

Jordan Thompson, Oxford, Miami University junior zoology major from Zanesville.

LeShawn Tucker, Dayton, Ohio.

Arielle Underwood, 20, Springfield Township, a model; quit school in New York and returned home when her mother's breast cancer returned; 2005 "American Idol" contestant while a SCPA senior; daughter of choir member Willrudale Underwood; 2005 SCPA graduate.

Willrudale Underwood, 47, Roselawn, Easter Seals employment trainer; shown on Monday's show auditioning with daughter Arielle; wife, Kathy, being treated for breast cancer, was shown several times in the TV studio audience; oldest of the group; sings at Cincinnati Church of Christ choir in Deer Park.

Nick Wall, 20, Dent, Bridgetown Road Skyline Chili server; turned 20 on Dec. 14 while in New York with the choir; sings at First Baptist Church of Dent; was Ohio All-State Choir soloist as a high school senior; 2006 Oak Hills High School graduate.

Meghan Watkins, 24, Mount Lookout, a music therapist; majored in voice and music therapy at Ohio University; 2001 Ursuline Academy graduate.