While rehearsing their version of Carrie Underwood’s “The Champion” for a once-in-a-lifetime performance during CMA Fest 2019 in June, Andrew Jackson Elementary School’s Eagle Honor Choir received words of encouragement from a very special guest. Underwood, a fan of the Old Hickory, Tenn. choir’s performance of her song “The Champion,” paid a surprise visit days before the students performed the song in front of 50,000 fans at Nissan Stadium.

“I originally saw this incredible group on Facebook doing my song "The Champion,”" Underwood says in a behind-the-scenes video from the CMA Foundation. “You could see how much love and thought and hard work was put into this.”

Director Franklin Willis, a three-time CMA Foundation Music Teacher of Excellence, helped the students put the music video together for release in May. The students’ talents and originality caught the attention of the CMA Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports music in public schools. The annual CMA Fest raises funds for the foundation, and festival organizers were eager to have the Eagle Honor Choir be part of the 2019 event.

Underwood’s Top 50 crossover hit from 2018 features Atlanta-based hip-hop star Ludacris. It served as the theme song for Super Bowl LII and appears on Underwood’s 2018 album Cry Pretty.

A CMA Fest television special, CMA Fest: The Music Event of Summer, will air on Aug. 4 at 8PM ET on ABC.

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