Senior Jeremy Washington said that people these days don’t believe anything until they have a picture. So here’s a picture of him, sophomore Elisha Wright, first-year student Murjanatu Mutuwa, and graduate student RaeNosa Hudnell with Stevie Wonder and his backup singers.
On Saturday, November 7, the four Butler students sang background with Wonder and his group at his Bankers Life Fieldhouse concert.
“It was beautiful,” Washington said.
Wonder’s people contacted Valerie Davidson, Butler’s Director of Diversity Programs, on the Thursday before the concert, inquiring about available student singers. Two days later, the students were at the fieldhouse.
“They wanted us there at 3:30,” Washington said. “I don’t play that, so we got there at 3 p.m.”
They were escorted to their dressing room—the Indiana Pacers’s locker room—where they dressed and rehearsed with the six singers who travel with Wonder. These are singers who also have worked with Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, and Iggy Azalea, among others.
Around 5:00 PM, they went to the stage for soundcheck, just in time to see Wonder’s SUV pull up to the stage and drop him off right there.
“All the way up to that moment,” Washington said, “I thought we were going to wake up and this was not going to be real.”
They did a quick soundcheck, Wonder said it sounded great, and the singers went back to their dressing room for more rehearsal. When they finished, dinner was served: prime rib with a cinnamon brown sugar crust.
“They called it ‘Pastime Paradise’ prime rib,” Wright said. “They named all the dishes after Stevie Wonder’s songs.”
Before going onstage, Wonder, his band, and all the singers joined in a circle and prayed together. Then Wonder and the band went on, and the singers took their place near the stage to await the cue for their first song, “Pastime Paradise.”
The students had hoped to get a picture with Wonder because, as Washington said, they would have proof of their experience. And at intermission, they got their chance.
Washington said he and his fellow students had put away their phones. “We remembered we were hired for a job, therefore we were professional.” he said.
So when they were offered the chance for a picture, they tried to be as composed as possible.
“In person, I said, ‘Thank you for this opportunity,’” Washington said. “But mentally, I was going crazy.”
They sang again in the second half of the show—the songs “People Get Ready” and “Another Star”—and then joined in for “Superstition” during the encore.
It was a night, they said, they will never forget.
And they said that if Janet Jackson is listening, they’re available to join her for her concert January 29 at the fieldhouse.