Local Principal, FAMU Alum's A Capella National Anthem At Lincoln Memorial Goes Viral

Jun 27, 2016

Jefferson Middle-High School Assistant Principal, Star Swain.
Credit LHatter / Star Swain

A local school principal’s impromptu performance at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. has gone viral, and it's generating a lot of conversation locally, too. Here's the story behind the song's performance.

It starts on a sunny day inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. In the video, people are walking around, taking photos. But the focus of the video is a very reluctant woman, whose friends are pushing her to sing.

That woman is Jefferson County Middle-High School Assistant Principal Star Swain. Take a look at the video:

This performance has generated more than 11 million views on facebook. As the song continues, the crowd, once noisy, gradually gets quieter. There are rules in place to keep people from performing at national monuments, but the guards just stand by listening. And at the end, the crowd erupts in cheers.

"Everything in my life has a purpose. And this gift is supposed to be used...to touch the lives of millions."

Swain has largely shied away from public performances, with the exception of church But she’s been singing since she was a little girl, in Macon, Georgia. There have been offers and promises of recording contracts, but nothing has ever come of it. A few years ago—Swain was turned down by the BET Gospel Talent showcase “Sunday’s Best” after making it through several rounds. She still remembers the audition song: “It’s is well”. And she remembers the responses.

“The final say, was [no], because I had my eyes closed," she said. "So we missed that opportunity because of that.”

Her eyes are closed as she sings the national anthem. In fact, in this clip, from more than 10 years ago-- Swain’s eyes are also shut.

That’s Florida A&M University’s Marching 100  performing the song, Order my Steps. Swain is singing. She is a proud former band member and FAMU alumna. She's studying for her Ph.D. at Florida State University. But the English teacher and assistant high school Principal is wary about being labeled as “just” a singer:

“Everything in my life has a purpose. And this gift, is supposed to be used..to touch the lives of millions, people all other the road. But not just that. It will open the doors for me to use other gifts to encourage and uplift and build. So when I venture out to do other things, I don’t want it be,  '“but you’re just a singer'. No, I’m a person who sings, who has a gift to sing, but I also have this to offer as well.”

Still that moment, at the Lincoln Memorial, resonated with her too:

“When you come to Washington D.C….you’re coming most times because you’re an American and it has some value to you," she said. " So I think for them [the crowd] to hear that..it was personal. It was something they could relate too, and it really made them appreciative of it.”

And it comes right in time for Independence Day.

Hear Swain talk to NPR's Scott Simon here.