Anytime, anyplace — Ask Rikki Nelson to sing and she’s ready to oblige.
Monday, for instance, huddled with a reporter and a photographer in an office at Fairview High School, Rikki offered an a capella verse of “God Bless America,” and then sang it again to make sure their recorder picked it up.
“It’s a degree of confidence you have to have (to be a performer), said Jeff Ware, Rikki’s band teacher and one of the faculty members who will accompany her to Frankfort next Tuesday when she is scheduled to sing for the members of the General Assembly.
Rikki caught the ear of state House majority floor leader Rocky Adkins, who attended a Veterans Day ceremony at Fairview High. That same day, Adkins told her history teacher she should come to Frankfort some time and sing for the senators and representatives.
Ware heard that and mentioned it to his wife Mary, who worked with Adkins. A couple of weeks and a few emails later, Adkins had made a formal invitation.
Rikki, a senior, will sing the number as arranged for the Fairview show choir, of which she is a three-year member. It’s the version Celine Dion sings, and Rikki has been rehearsing with the choir and at home. “It’s a very vocally challenging song,” she said.
It is clear that Rikki loves to sing, but she deflects compliments with an ever-present self-deprecatory humor. She’s been anxious, she said, about performing at the Capitol, but not because of the powerful and influential audience.
“It’s the first time I will ever sing in front of my mamaw,” she admitted. Her grandmother, Bessie Nelson, sings at church and was an early musical influence, she said. “Maybe that’s where I got my ability. No one else in the family sings.”
She totally gets the irony of an 18-year-old girl having the same name — spelling aside — as a 1960s teen idol, rolling her eyes and admitting she also has a thing for Elvis. Her academic plans, after a couple of semesters at Ashland Community and Technical College, include finding a college in Tennessee, the King’s home state.
Since she was 5 or 6 years old, Rikki has been able to listen to a song on the radio a time or two and remember the words well enough to sing. She has been in every school play from the time she enrolled at Fairview in third grade.
As a freshman she joined the band and plays clarinet and tenor saxophone. The formal musical training has helped her as a singer, she believes.
Though jittery about her Frankfort gig, she sees it as an opening, both personally and as a loyal Eagle. She wants to give the tiny Fairview district every possible chance to stand out. “It’s a huge opportunity, especially for such a small school,” she said.
“I hope they’re impressed.”
MIKE JAMES can be reached at email@example.com or at (606) 326-2652.
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