Before 50,000 People Saw These Kids, Carrie Underwood Saw Them on Facebook

All About the Man Who Made It All Possible, Franklin Willis

Everything about Carrie Underwood’s Instagram post on Monday (July 29) is adorable:

The third and fourth graders absolutely belting out “The Champion.”

Their reaction to seeing Underwood walk into their rehearsal.

The choir director trying to contain his enthusiasm for the big reveal.

And Underwood telling them all to crush it during their CMA Fest performance at Nissan Stadium.

“This makes my heart so happy! I am so proud of the Andrew Jackson Elementary School Eagle Choir! You are all true champions!! @CMA @CMAFoundation @Ludacris #MusicEducation,” Underwood said in her post with the video.

But what I cannot get over is that these kids didn’t come to Underwood. She went to them after seeing their original social media post in May. “I originally saw this incredible group on Facebook doing my song ’The Champion.’ You could see how much love and thought and hard work was put into this,” she says, adding that as long as she was in Nashville, she want to drop by to give them her love and encouragement.

She’s right that moments like this do take hard work, but they also take an inspiring leader. Which is exactly what the kids have in Franklin Willis.

Andrew Jackson Elementary School, in Old Hickory, Tennessee, is home to the Eagle Honors Choir that Willis started as an after-school program for all the talented kids who showed an interest in music. Willis shared his story of his own path from a young man singing “Amazing Grace” to audition for the Nashville School of the Arts to his position as the choral director in a story on the Country Music Association website. His story ends with Willis saying, “I am proof of the transformative power of music education.”

After graduating from NSA, Willis went to the University of Memphis and then started his professional educating career at Memphis’ Vollentine Elementary School. And for the last ten years, Willis has been part of theMetro Nashville Public Schools family.

Underwood wrote “The Champion” with Christopher Bridges (Ludacris), Chris DeStefano and Brett James.

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