Detroit 'Jewels' Realize a Dream, Head to Disney World

Young people from the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences will perform at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, showcasing the Motor City’s talent.

Posted: 06/11/2014 12:46 PM EDT

The city of Detroit is boasting about another feather in its cap as students from one if its inner city schools have been asked to perform at Disney World and, in the process, promote a positive image of their town.

Students from the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences will be flown to Disney’s Magic Kingdom to sing Pharrell Williams’s “Happy.” Earlier this year, the students at the school recorded a video of them singing the song, a recording that went viral within a few days.

The upcoming appearance at Disney World on June 16 represents a long-held dream for the students, who are between the ages of nine and 13 and who have been seeking the opportunity to perform at the Florida resort for more than a year.

However, leaders of the school and others say that the choir’s presence at Disney World helps to present a vibrant impression of Detroit. They say that these inner city students from financially troubled Detroit serve as a symbol of the increasing recognition that there is more to the Motor City than bankruptcy and abandoned buildings.

“It shows the world that there are great things going on in Detroit,” said Maurice Morton, the chief executive of the well-known elementary school, in an interview with BET.com. “These students are among Detroit’s true jewels.”

The director of the school’s choir, Angela Kee, has had the students rehearsing since last year, Morton said. Their goal has been to participate in Disney’s performing arts program, which provides instrumental, vocal and other ensembles the opportunity to perform at Disney World.

The choir’s efforts got a big boost when its performance of Pharrell’s hit single, “Happy,” garnered more than 1.5 million views. That video also captured the attention of national media and led to an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. During that appearance, show host Ellen DeGeneres presented the choir with a check for $50,000.  

“Mrs. Kee and her students are a great example of how music education opens doors and can transform the lives of young people,” said Tim Hill, director of Special Programs for Disney Destinations.

“As an entertainment company, Disney is passionate about the importance of music education, and Disney Performing Arts gives young people the chance to experience the thrill of performing,” Hill said. “They also get a chance to learn about the business of show business. Who knows, we might even see some of Ms. Kee’s students taking on a music career with Disney someday.”  

Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

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 (Photo: Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

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