When Scotty McCreery walked into the Timber Drive Elementary chorus room Thursday, Salena Price started to cry.
“He’s adorable,” Salena said, covering her eyes.
As for the rest of her 5th grade music classmates, the reaction wasn’t nearly as animated. But it was close. Faces lit up, students stood frozen and hands covered mouths.
An “American Idol” winner and best-selling country singer had just walked into the room.
“That’s Scotty,” one child whispered to another.
Elizabeth Palmieri, the music teacher at Timber Drive Elementary where McCreery once attended school, had just told her students, the Timber Singers, that they would sing with him during the concert that night.
But it didn’t seem to resonate until he walked in.
For a few minutes he practiced with them singing his song “I love you, this big.”
All eyes were on McCreery. Some students had trouble keeping their composure. Afterwards they surrounded him and took pictures and gave him high-fives.
“He came here. He sings nice. And he touched my hand three times,” Salena said. “He’s my favorite singer.” She kissed her hand five times then paused. “But he didn’t hug me,” she said with a frown.
Seconds later Salena ran up to him and gave him a hug.
“I don't even know him, but he’s cute,” Kaitlyn Woods, 11, said, giggling.
McCreery said Palmieri, the music teacher, heard he was in town and asked him could he sing with the music class for the concert.
She was once his music teacher, so McCreery said yes.
“It was special,” McCreery said. “That’s what you want for them. To be happy, and they are young and having fun. It would have a big night regardless of if I was here, but I hope I made their night a little better.”
McCreery said that walking back into his old elementary school brought back memories of bringing his guitar to show-n-tell, singing in the chorus and checking out books at the library.
“It’s just cool to come back and see the old stomping grounds and it’s fun to see the smiles on kids faces when they get surprised,” McCreery said. “So I’m glad I’m in a position to give back.”
There were more smiles to come.
To cellphones held high by the very surprised parents in the audience, Scotty and the Timber Singers sang.