Todd O'Neill gives concert at Independence Elementary School

Independence Elementary students were treated to a great afternoon of music and fun when Country Star Todd O'Neill gave a free concert for the Kindergarten students' good behavior.

Todd O'Neill is a proud 2001 Independence High School graduate who held the title of Senior Class President, and he was voted the Most Witty; according to O'Neill, he was voted The Class Clown. The first time he sang in public was at the IHS Talent Show.

In 2004, he moved to Nashville to become a full-time musician touring and playing music in the Wild Horse Salloon in Nashville, Tennessee. He has played music for about nine years total, playing guitar about four of those years. He taught himself how to play the guitar using only a chord chart.

Recently in 2008, he has appeared on CMT Country Music Television performing with Conway Twittie and opening for Tracy Lawrence and George Jones, another Country Music legend. Todd O'Neill has appeared for the 3rd time in Country Weekly Magazine.

"I have been singing my whole life. I went to listen to music. There were times when I heard really good musicians in the bars in Hammond, and after they performed, I asked them to form a band with me, and that's how I formed my band."

O'Neill has a new CD out titled, "Real life" produced by Jim Allison who also produced CDs for Reba McIntyre, Leanne Rhymes, and Eddie Rabbit.  He is signed with Aria Records owned by Barbara Tallo Farkas.

Organized by good friend and kindergarten teacher Shelia Willie, the concert had the little students and their teachers clapping, swaying to the music, and singing along.  

"I noticed a big improvement in behavior knowing they would get to go to this concert," said Shelia Willie. "They all wanted to go."

"You are the reason Todd is taking time out of his schedule to come here," IES Principal Cathy LeBlanc said addressing her students.

Taking time from his busy touring and recording schedule, Todd O'Neill made time to perform for the elementary students from his hometown.

Principal LeBlanc introduced the special guests in attendance, and they were Leonard "Tank" Genco, School Board member; Al Link, School Bd. member; Danny Ridgel, School Bd. President; Superintendent Mark Kolwe; Ken Benitez, T.V. and Radio Reporter, and Loretta Joiner from Amite Tangi Digest Newspaper.

The children were thrilled as this nationally recognized musician performed solo with only his acoustic guitar captivating his audience of youngsters and adults.

When he sang the line," Gotta hole in my jeans," the children laughed.  "Riding with my baby," also produced laughs from the children.

O'Neill pulled in his little listeners to participate. When he saw a student dancing making the pointed finger movements in the disco style of John Travolta, he pointed to him recognizing little James Dillon for his dancing ability.

Later in the concert when O'Neill performed the classic song, "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding, he captured the essence of the 1960s singer's soulful sound.

"Todd wanted to give something back to the community he grew up in," said Willie. "He was so good with the students.  He enjoyed doing this concert for them."

At times, his audience looked like a sea of swirling little faces with their arms waving in the Otis Redding classic.

"The part I liked most in this song when I was a kid was the whistling part at the end," O'Neill said. "See if you can do this part with me."

Surprisingly, the students responded by whistling.

He performed "Mrs. Bell's Sweet Tea," and cover songs, "In Color" and Tom Petty's "Free Falling."  He also performed his original song, "Cajun Queen."

Toward the end of the concert, O'Neill and with the help of some of the teachers held a mini "Idol" type singing contest. The group appearing on stage showed their singing talent, and among them two girls sang and now are in the process of being accepted for the Talented Music Program since a representative attended the concert.  Their talents might never been recognized if they had not sung on stage at this concert.

Among the many brave singers, Ryan Beauford sang part of the song, "Apple Bottom Jeans" and Alyssa Pounds, in Tim Guernsey's class, sang, "The Star Spangled Banner" with her fellow students helping her with the words. Landell McMorris sang, "This Christmas."

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