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Wei Around the World: theme song winner performs in D.C.

May 13, 2011

You may have seen something on the Memphis Music Foundation web site recently (or in the MRC newsletter!) about Memphian Wei Chen and his upcoming historic journey around the world by plane — or, more specifically, the “Wei Around the World” Theme Song contest.

The winner of that contest was MRC member Tory Thomas with his song “The Peace Above.” Tory’s prize package was pretty incredible, including an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national kick-off press conference, performances at national and local press events and a cash award of $250. Tory traveled to D.C. last week to take part in the festivities, and we asked him to provide us with a recap of his adventure.

The trip to D.C. with Wei was a great experience. We met up at the Wilson Air Hangar with the rest of the crew and once everyone got loaded, we took off for Washington. It was quite an honor and a privilege to be Wei’s passenger on the exact airplane he will use to complete his historic journey. The flight to D.C. was about three hours. As soon as we landed, we got straight to business with interviews at the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association, an organization that is highly regarded in the general aviation arena. They currently have a story on their home page about Wei’s historic flight. The Memphis Music Foundation and the theme song contest are mentioned in the article as well.

Tory on the plane en route to D.C.

From there, we had a short lunch and made the drive to the National Press Building in downtown D.C. to go over the sequence of events for the press conference the next day. Also on the flight were Rob Williams, owner of Memphis Aircraft Parts and Wei’s co-pilot on part of the around-the-world flight; Jim Baker, owner of Owen Brennan’s restaurant, former pilot and good friend of both Wei and Rob; and John Chen, Wei’s business partner. The more we all hung out, the more we bonded and the more fun the trip was.

The crew outside Wei's plane.

After the walk-through at the Press Club, there were several other meetings throughout the day concluding with dinner and hotel check-in. Day one was non-stop action, but the great weather and good company made it enjoyable. The following morning, we checked out and headed back to the National Press Building under rainy skies. The Press Conference began with Tricia Montgomery (of Wei Chen’s public relations team) briefly greeting the press and mentioning the theme song contest. After the greeting and introduction, I was up next. I thanked Wei and the MMF for the wonderful opportunity to participate in the event and from there, I went into performing “The Peace Above.” The performance went well and from there, the press conference proceeded without a hitch. Afterward, the media got to ask questions both on camera and off.  I was asked several off-camera questions regarding the motivation for the song and the origin of my involvement, which I happily attributed to the MMF. After a successful press conference, the rest of the day proceeded much like day one, albeit with a more relaxed atmosphere. The cameras were off now, so it was back to business as usual — or so I thought.

The last event of the day turned out to be dinner at a Chinese restaurant, which also doubled as an exclusive interview with the local Chinese TV station, complete with journalists and cameras.  Aside from the parts where we were introduced, the interviews were all spoken in Chinese. While I had no idea what was being said, the reaction from the crowd of 30-40 people spoke volumes. The interest Wei generated while speaking was impressive. When I was introduced, all I understood was “the Memphis Music Foundation” and my name. I stood up and addressed the crowd and they requested that I perform “The Peace Above.” Luckily, I had a spare copy of the show track on CD and the restaurant owner was able to play it over the house speakers. I sang and everyone got a kick out of it. The interviews wrapped up and dinner commenced. After about 30 minutes of dining, the track to “The Peace Above” started without warning, and of course everyone looked at me and requested an encore performance. Stunned and flattered, I put my chop sticks down, dabbed my mouth with my napkin, and happily performed the song again. This time I incorporated more audience participation on the song, which went over well. It was a great experience all around. Afterward, we headed straight to the airport where Don, Wei’s co-pilot on this trip, had already performed the preflight inspections. Once loaded, we were back in the air headed home to Memphis.

The whole trip was great. I got to meet some great people, make new friends and participate in a National Press Conference — an unforgettable experience.

Wei Chen and Tory at the closing dinner.

Before this, I had gained a lot from the MMF through the seminars and other guidance, but this opportunity was unreal. Regardless of who won the contest, and even for those who didn’t enter a song at all, I truly hope the rest of the members realize and appreciate the magnitude of this opportunity.

This one opportunity has snowballed into an avalanche of opportunities for me. As a matter of fact, this week I shot an interview with Markova Reed from News Channel 3. (Stay tuned to the MMF Facebook fan page and right here on the blog for the link when it’s posted!)

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