In a media gathering Thursday morning on the fourth floor of Belmont’s Inman Center, College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean Cynthia Curtis and alumna Melinda Doolittle (’99) jointly announced that Melinda will host the 2007 “Christmas at Belmont” concert, which will be taped live next month. The special will air nationally on PBS Mon., Dec. 24, at 10 p.m. EST after its local premiere on Nashville Public Television (NPT) Thurs., Dec. 20, at 8 p.m. CST. Doolittle was a top finalist on the sixth season of “American Idol,” where she won the hearts and votes of millions of Americans and gathered legions of devoted fans.
Reflecting on her time as a Belmont student, Doolittle said, “I have a lot of wonderful memories from performing at Belmont. I was a part of Belmont Pops, University Chorus, Jazzmin, and Chadasha so I’ve been performing here for the longest time, even at the Commercial Music showcase. I’m really, really excited to be coming back for ‘Christmas at Belmont,’ to be given another chance to perform and also to host.”
Belmont President Bob Fisher said, “We have a world-class School of Music, and we are delighted that we can bring our students and faculty to national prominence. We are thrilled to welcome Melinda Doolittle back home to Belmont and are grateful to her for hosting ‘Christmas at Belmont’ and providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our School of Music students to perform with such a talented singer and inspiration. We’re pleased to be partnering again with NPT to produce this signature holiday event for a national and local audience.”
“Christmas at Belmont,” a production of NPT with funding from the Beaman Family Foundation and the Jack C. Massey Foundation, will be broadcast this year for the first time from the illustrious Schermerhorn Symphony Center, adding to the grandeur of the signature holiday event in Music City. The concert features a collage of familiar carols, classical masterworks, world music and light-hearted seasonal favorites. More than 400 student voices join with School of Music faculty and the Nashville Children’s Choir to present the annual holiday production.
Dean Curtis noted, “We are just incredibly pleased and excited to have Melinda hosting our ‘Christmas at Belmont’ this year. For those of us around Belmont who’ve known Melinda since she was a freshman, she has always been a complete pleasure to work with. What we saw as she participated in the ‘American Idol’ process is really who she is: she’s very humble and yet very talented as a musician and performer.”
Doolittle will return to familiar territory as she takes to the “Christmas at Belmont” stage with students and faculty, but in her first ever role as host. Doolittle graduated from Belmont in 1999 with a degree in commercial voice and began her professional singing career as a backup singer for acts such as BeBe and CeCe Winans, Michael McDonald, Kirk Franklin, Aaron Neville, Alabama, Jonny Lang and Anointed. Doolittle emerged from the background to headliner after her successful run on the sixth season of TV juggernaut “American Idol.” Since her run on the show, Doolittle performed in the American Idol national tour and has been preparing for her debut album.
Doolittle, who is is taking over hosting duties from fellow School of Music alumnus and country star Josh Turner (’01), said, “Belmont really prepared me for the musical side of things, finding my style and getting used to who I am musically, as well as for the business side, to understand what I was looking at when someone set a contract in front of me. Belmont has been a huge preparation for me.”
Another first for the 2007 Christmas at Belmont production is its relocation to the grand Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown Nashville. Opened in 2006, the Schermerhorn is one of few venues in the world featuring natural lighting and state-of-the-art acoustics, including motorized acoustic drapes and an acoustical isolation joint that encircles the entire concert hall and prevents sound waves traveling into or out of the hall.
“Our partnership with Belmont University to produce this Christmas special for PBS will bring the musical assets of one of Nashville’s premier educational institutions in a prestigious concert hall to a national audience,” Beth Curley, Nashville Public Television President and CEO, said. “PBS programming is aired on the nation’s 349 public television stations, which means that millions of Americans will have the opportunity to continue to enjoy this beloved holiday tradition from Music City.”