CMSD's All-City Choir Will 'Lift Every Voice And Sing' At NFL Draft

Cleveland Metropolitan School District All-City Choir director Dr. David Thomas and junior Olalade Robinson
Cleveland Metropolitan School District All-City Choir Music Director Dr. David Thomas and 11th grader Ololade Robinson share their thoughts on the upcoming NFL Draft performance. [Jenny Hamel / ideastream]
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Members of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District All-City Choir will take center stage at the opening ceremonies of the NFL Draft. They’ve been asked to perform the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

At an in-person rehearsal at Karamu House, Music Director Dr. David Thomas and 11th grader Ololade Robinson from the Cleveland School of the Arts filled ideastream in on the details of getting ready for the football festivities – including crucial in-person rehearsals ahead of Thursday's performance.

“Today is one of the second rehearsals that we've had in-person because of COVID,” Thomas said. “We've been on Zoom, I've been on the phone. So it's been a really strange, crazy way of trying to teach. Doing Zoom when it comes to rhythm does not work. So I'm pretty happy, even though it's only been our second rehearsal that we're able to try to do that.”

Due to COVID-19, NFL event organizers told the All-City Choir only eight people would be allowed at the event to perform. That means Thomas was only able to ask seven students to represent the choir, including Ololade Robinson.

“I felt really excited and I felt really special because, you know, one out of seven,” Robinson said. “He could have asked anybody, but he asked me. So, yeah, I felt really special. I'm a mixture of both nervous and excited. This is a big opportunity not only for us, but for Cleveland in general."

Members of the CMSD All-City Choir rehearse at Karamu House ahead of a Thursday NFL Draft performance. [Jenny Hamel / ideastream]

With the pandemic overshadowing much of Robinson’s junior year, she said getting to sing at the NFL Draft is even more of a highlight.

“I personally feel like I've kind of been robbed of the high school experience, I guess you could call it, but this is far beyond what a high school experience most people go through, like singing on national television,” Robinson said. “Most people would dream of that. So I'm incredibly grateful.”

Thomas said one of the things that makes this performance even more special, is that the ensemble will perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which he said is widely recognized as the “African-American National Anthem.”

“In view of the times and the things we're going through as a country and as a world, for the NFL to take the time to make a selection, to pick that particular as a song for us to do is truly awesome,” Thomas said. 

Robinson agreed that as a Black teenager, getting to perform this song is a celebration of the Black community.

“I feel like as a teenager, it’s really important to see young black voices just in the media in general,” Thomas said. “So to be able to be a person who can perform in my Blackness, in the body that I am and just celebrate that, it means so much.”

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