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Tampa students snag a spot performing Pink Floyd song

TAMPA

When the invitation came, the mother shrieked. The daughter turned to Google.

Roger Waters needed a children's chorus from Patel Conservatory to accompany him during an upcoming concert in Tampa.

"Oh, my God, Pink Floyd was so big," Toni Morrison's mother told her.

The Internet confirmed this, and 12-year-old Toni loaded The Wall onto her iPod.

Sixteen music students will share the stage Tuesday with Roger Waters, a former leader of the British rock band. The preteens and teens — many of whom were unfamiliar with the iconic musician until last week — will chime in for one song.

We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control.

"There's a lot of irony there," said Stephanie Morrison, Toni's mother. Toni is in the International Baccalaureate program at Williams Magnet Middle School.

"She started singing it very powerfully, and I said, 'No, you need an education, thank you.' "

But music can be timeless, each generation relating to it in different ways.

"It's always cool to stand up for what you believe in," said Jonathan Hack, chairman of the music department at the Patel Conservatory. "It's just taking back a little bit of power when you're at an age when it's easy to be overlooked."

Pink Floyd's fame has spanned decades — albeit the decades before these backup singers were born. The original group of four members formed in the late '60s, and the band — in various forms — played through the 1990s.

Waters, a songwriter, vocalist and bassist, left the group in 1985. The Wall, produced in 1979, still ranks as the third best-selling album ever in the United States, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

The anti-education message in Another Brick in the Wall Part II may ring a little hollow when sung by today's high-achieving youth, but it's not totally archaic yet.

"Everybody feels like this at one point or another," said Samantha Wassmer, 14, one of the teens who will sing the chorus. She's in the IB Program at St. Petersburg High School, but she said that doesn't keep her from having occasional "I don't need school" thoughts.

The students practiced at home and at a rehearsal Friday, learning the chorus and simple choreography that will have them running onstage at the St. Pete Times Forum.

They'll be wearing matching T-shirts and dark jeans. It won't be like the song's music video, where schoolchildren in uniform march into a meat grinder.

"We don't need no education," sings Toni, the seventh-grader whose mother listened to Pink Floyd in high school.

Toni stops abruptly and looks serious.

"But I kind of think sometimes we do need some education sometimes," she said.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

Tampa students snag a spot performing Pink Floyd song 11/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 13, 2010 10:18pm]
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