You almost can’t turn on the radio or television, or open a magazine at the hair salon without seeing or reading something about singer Taylor Swift. Her recent album, in which she makes the move from country to pop, has really brought her in the public’s eye. A number of years ago, some unique circumstances brought Ms. Swift to my sister Bec’s small Catholic high school in Alexandria, VA, to perform a concert for the student body. Here is the story…..
By Rebecca Borman
One day this week I turned on a morning talk show, and they were talking about Taylor Swift, who had performed on the show the day before and would be doing so again later in the week. That afternoon, I was listening to the radio in my car, and Swift’s new song, “Shake It Off” played. When the song ended, the station went to commercial, so I switched stations, and there was “Shake It Off” again. I never hear Taylor Swift’s music or read anything about her without being taken back to the spring of 2009, to the day when Taylor Swift gave a private concert in the high school where I taught.
Early in 2009, Swift, a rising young singer, and Verizon wireless teamed up to create a texting contest—whichever school sent the most texts to a particular phone number would win a private Taylor Swift concert. Presumably, the rising star agreed (I’m pretty sure the idea came from Verizon) in order to promote her new album, Fearless. And little Bishop Ireton High School, student population 800, won that contest! But, see, in the meantime, Taylor Swift was no longer a rising star; she had made it big! Her songs were all over the radio, she was on the internet and talk shows, and she was on the short list for the CMA Entertainer of the Year Award, which, by the way, she won that November. And, yet, there she was one May afternoon, to do the concert she had promised the school who won that contest.
It’s a great story, and one I’ll dine on for the rest of my life. Because Taylor Swift gave that concert…and so much more. You might expect that, having achieved success and not in need of whatever publicity she would get from a show in Alexandria, Virginia, she would dog it a bit. Didn’t happen. Instead, she came into the school hours before the show and met administrators, teachers, and lots and lots of students. She took pictures with all the student government kids and was delighted when the boy who generated the contest in school introduced himself. In fact, she gave him a big hug! He’ll never forget that.
And then she gave a performance that lacked nothing in energy or quality. She could have been performing for the President or a concert venue of 20,000 people. She talked to our students, noting that only a year earlier, she had been a high school senior. She thanked the school for hosting her show. And she told a story I’ll never forget:
One Monday morning she was in the girls’ bathroom and watched a fellow student who was sobbing to her friends because she had had sex with her boyfriend that weekend. She was regretting it bitterly, sad that she had bowed to pressure, disappointed in herself. And this is what Swift said to our students: “I decided then and there, I never wanted to be that girl. I never wanted to give in to the pressure to do something that I knew was wrong for me.” Now, teachers and parents can talk ‘til they’re blue in the face, but this was super-star Taylor Swift, empowering our students, especially our girls, to respect themselves and their values.
So, when I hear her on the radio or see her all over the magazines, the internet, talk shows, etc., I smile big! This is one woman who, it seems, gets it. She is a role model, not because she’s been told she needs to be but because it’s who she is.
You go, girl!
Nana’s Notes: Here is a link to a Youtube video of the concert, including her interactions with students before the concert. She is sooooo young.