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Be Jealous: Elton John Performed With USC Students

Kacey Deamer |
September 17, 2013 | 10:23 a.m. PDT

Operations Director

Sir Elton John on stage at Bovard Auditorium, courtesy of Dietmar Quistorf/USC
Sir Elton John on stage at Bovard Auditorium, courtesy of Dietmar Quistorf/USC

The iconic Sir Elton John performed for a sold out audience at Bovard Auditorium last night. 

The University of Southern California is the second and last campus to host this event, the other being John’s alma mater the Royal Academy of Music. The event was a partnership with John’s record label Capitol Records, the Thornton School of Music and the campus initiative Visions and Voices.

The intimate concert gave attendees insight into the man behind the music, with a special Q&A included in the program. It also gave a few students from the Thornton School of Music the opportunity to perform with John on stage.

READ MORE: Sir Elton John Thrills Audience At USC Special Event

Chris Sampson, vice dean of the division of contemporary music at Thornton, said Captiol Records reached out to USC to host the event and a simple sign-up approach was used — with limits based on needed instrumentation and vocals — to select students to perform.

“We definitely had more students want to perform than we were able to accommodate,” Sampson said. "However, we were very pleased to be able to put together a small orchestra from USC Thornton Symphony and we also brought in some members of the USC Thornton Chamber Choir."

There was a range in the ages of the students on stage with John, including a few freshman according to Sampson.

The performance was broken into three segments, four if you include the finale. The symphony, a selection of string players, joined John in songs from past albums including “Tiny Dancer” and “Your Song.” A Q+A portion was led by Scott Goldman, GRAMMY Foundation Vice President, and allowed for a select few questions from the audience. Then John debuted five songs from his new album, "The Diving Board", set to be released Sept. 24. 

John was dressed in a sparkling suit and a smile, turning to the audience as he played and sharing stories between songs. He joked and swore a lot, much to the audience’s delight. 

“The old have plenty to say, the young have plenty to say, but in between forget about it,” John said of songwriting and the power of young voices.

Age was brought up a few times by John, who is now 66. 


At one point he said of his new album: “At my age I can do what I want,” with a few curse words thrown in for effect.


Students and other attendees were uproarious when John said one of his new favorite artists is 16-year-old singer Lorde. 

However, there was no louder applause or screams until the end of the show. The stage had been emptied, then a sparkle could be seen by the side curtain as John stepped back out to the piano to sing “Rocket Man” with only the accompaniment of a guitar (briefly) and the audience. It was at this point that tears could be seen in their eyes.

The legendary Sir Elton John gave Bovard Auditorium the performance of a lifetime: intimate but full of energy, and truly never to be recreated.

For a personal reflection on the event, keep a lookout for Kacey Deamer’s essay. 



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