A Girl, A Guitar, and a Mission

Perkins students rocked the house on Tuesday, September 15, with Casey McQuillen, an International pop star in the making and a girl with a message. Casey spent an hour on the Perkins stage entertaining grades 6 to 12 as part of her You Matter tour – a combination anti-bullying campaign and musical performance.

Students had the privilege of listening to this young woman – who was one of the top 48 contestants on season 13 of American Idol and is a graduate of the Berkley College of Music – explain to them the secrets to success in life. “The most important thing I learned from American Idol,” Casey said, “is that failure doesn’t change your life, but in fact frees you to be anyone you want to be.”

She explained that as an American Idol contestant she was asked to sign a contract saying she wouldn’t release the results of the show which aired three months after taping. This meant that week after week as family and friends cheered her on fully expecting her to win; McQuillen already knew that she had failed. “I failed on national T.V. and no one cared,” she said. “This meant that I could try anything and it wouldn’t matter because if I failed my family and friends still love me.”

Casey has been singing since she was 10 years old and writing songs since she was 13, and wanted the kids to be reminded that they do what they do for the love of it, not to make others happy. “At the end of the day, my opinion of me is what matters, not the opinion of three random strangers sitting on a judge’s panel,” Casey said.

Along with her American Idol experience, Casey spoke about experiences she had with bullying of others she cares about, as well as herself. She told several emotional stories that resonated with the kids in the audience as they attentively sat transfixed on her every word. Each story was followed by a song that spoke to her feelings on many universal topics that all kids (and adults) can relate to.

The biggest message from this young performer – believe in yourself despite the constant bombardment through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook suggesting that everyone is perfect. For Casey, Friday nights are all about Netflix and Nutella – two things she dearly loves – until a friend posts a highlight on social media and then Casey feels her life is lame. “I really believe that your generation has it harder than any generation before due to social media,” she said. Her message is simple. Know what you want, learn how to get it, and reject the notion of failure.

At the conclusion of the show Perkins students joined in the singing of “This Girl is on Fire.” The pop star also gave each student an autographed copy of her flyer – something many are likely to treasure along with the words and songs that Casey shared with them today.

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