Ten-time multi-platinum band Foreigner will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, at the grandstand.

DU QUOIN -- A group of 20 Du Quoin High School students will perform on stage Saturday with a rock band founded more than 20 years before most of them were born.

The choir will sing Foreigner's signature song, "I Want to Know What Love Is" on stage at the Du Quoin State Fair.

"It's overwhelming," said Denise Smith, Du Quoin High School band and music director. "I never really thought something like this would come along."

Standing in the middle of the stage, the choir will sing with the band, then by themselves and then the band will join back in, Smith said.

The choir will also sell CDs for the band before and after the show to raise money for The Grammy Foundation.

Thom Gimbel, who joined the band in 1995 after a tenure with Aerosmith, said it's been a long-standing tradition for a local choir to sing "I Want to Know What Love Is."

The band's manager suggested using school choirs to raise awareness of music programs that are being cut by schools. Foreigner will donate $500 to Du Quoin High School.

"It's nice, with the state budgets cuts, to have some money come out of it also to help with our program," Smith said.

About half of Smith's students weren't familiar with the band that was one of her favorite groups when she graduated high school in 1981. 

"When I said the group Foreigner, they're like, 'Really, what country are they from?'" Smith said.

But the students, who were chosen following a May audition, have been downloading Foreigner's music and gaining an appreciation for the band that released hit songs like "Jukebox Hero," "Hot blooded," and "Waiting for a Girl Like You."

"One comment one of the children said was 'You know back in the '80s, they really had a good beat, and they had a lot of guitar solos, and a lot of percussion and drums stuff,'" Smith said. "'They really played the music well.'"

The students are excited to perform with the band, but Gimbel said sometimes their parents are more thrilled with the idea, given the band's rise to fame during their generation.

A couple of Smith's students are pursuing music theater in college and plan on including this experience on their resumes. 

"It's a once in a lifetime event," Smith said.

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Chris Hottensen is the entertainment and features reporter for The Southern Illinoisan.

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