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West Aurora CD special music to anyone’s ears

Nashville country music artist Ricky Lee addresses students from West AurorHigh School's A CappellChoir Wind Symphony Oct. 4 when school’s

Nashville country music artist Ricky Lee addresses students from West Aurora High School's A Cappella Choir and Wind Symphony on Oct. 4 when the school’s auditorium became a recording studio to record tracks for his upcoming CD, “Believe.” | Submitted

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How to get a copy

The CD can be purchased for $10 at the main office of West Aurora High School, 1201 W. New York St., Aurora, or send checks to that address, made payable to Christopher Patterson Memorial Foundation. Include an extra dollar to cover shipping. Or contact Robert Patterson at

Updated: January 18, 2014 8:08PM

It’s not often I’m ahead of the music industry. But by the time West Aurora High School announced last week it was officially selling the new CD “Believe,” I knew pretty much every word of every song by heart.

That’s because I purchased it at the conclusion of West High’s Veterans Ceremony when the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall was here in November. And ever since, I’ve been ignoring my radio and other car CDs to listen to this album recorded by country artist Ricky Lee and the West Aurora music department.

Yes, “Believe” is that good. And what makes it even more special is how it came to be.

The project was the idea of Lee, who heard the West High groups wow the audience at a 2012 veterans assembly when he was a guest. That day he also was introduced to Robert and Mary Patterson, who had lost their son Chris, a 2009 West High graduate, to a roadway bomb in Afghanistan that January.

Throughout the year Lee, who does so much work with veterans groups nationally, began working with West High’s Fine Arts Chairman Jonathan McClear and Band Director Rodney Schueller to record an album of patriotic music. While high school groups often do recordings, McClear said, “it’s unique for them to work with recording artists.”

The culmination of that effort occurred in early October when Lee joined more than a hundred members of the A Cappella Choir and Wind Symphony at the school to record tracks for “Believe.”

“There was so much we had to do, including learning the music quickly,” recalled junior choir member Wyatt Murphy. “We had never worked with the Wind Symphony before, and there were so many takes because we wanted to get it just right.”

The album was mixed in Nashville, but there were a few glitches. The final version did not arrive until the day of the assembly … just in time for Lee and the kids to debut several of the songs on stage at the veterans event that also featured Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Lee Davis.

That evening was memorable: I could have sat in the West High auditorium for another hour or so listening to the music. But I bought the CD that was offered at the end mainly to show support for the program and the Christopher Patterson Memorial Foundation that would receive all proceeds.

Then I began listening to “Believe” in the car. And I listened again … and again.. and again…

It’s remarkable on many levels, including the fact these teens sounded so darn professional.

“There is such intense motivation to be that good,” said Schueller, who taught for 13 years at the university level. “There are a lot of colleges and universities that would love to have an ensemble that talented.”

But you also have to throw in the patriotism that serves as the backdrop of West High, a culture of red, white and blue fostered by former co-principal Rudy Keller who still works there part time. It’s no wonder Schueller said that making this CD was “not about something the music department could hang its hat on, rather it’s about the cause and where the money would go.”

“This was for Chris,” 17-year-old Murphy told me. “We knew how important it was.”

All proceeds from the sale of “Believe” — that means every last penny, pointed out Schueller — support the fine arts program of West Aurora through the above mentioned Christopher Patterson Foundation. Chris, a National Guard member, had been active in music at West and was studying it at Valparaiso University when he was killed.

Robert Patterson said he and wife Mary listened to “Believe” that evening, after returning from the assembly.

“It’s uplifting; it makes you happy,” he told me ... except for the song, “A Place Angels Call Home” that was written by Lee in honor of their son.

“It brings a lot of things out,” admitted Patterson.

I can’t even imagine. But I can tell you how this CD affected me.

It made me feel. And that makes “Believe” a darn good buy.

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