Marsha Stepp and Kaylan Edmondson have never met and come from different backgrounds, but today they will be part of history as they participate in the 57th presidential inauguration.
Edmondson will be singing with a group during President Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony and Stepp will be greeting dignitaries at the Commander-in-Chief Ball tonight.
Edmondson will be a part of the 200-member Lee University Festival Choir that will perform during the inauguration.
Lee University officials said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, invited the choir to participate in the ceremony.
"It sounded unbelievable when we first got the news," said Edmondson, a 2010 graduate of Colbert Heights High School.
He said the group found out just before the Christmas break that they had been selected.
"We were sent home for the break with all the music and songs to learn," he said.
The Festival Choir is a combination of all the Lee University choirs, said Edmondson, who performs with the Voices of Lee. He said choir directors had control of who should be selected for the mass choir.
"Just getting selected is an honor," Edmondson said.
The joint choir has been preparing to perform nine songs. How many they will actually sing will not be known until today.
"We'll have 15 minutes. I don't know how many songs we'll sing, but we will be ready," said Edmondson, a junior studying public relations.
When they are not performing, the choir will be seated in the VIP seats near the stage.
"We're going to be right up front, close to the president," he said. "It's exciting to know we're going to be a part of such an event."
Stepp has been in Washington, D.C., for the past few weeks helping to plan the Commander-in-Chief Ball, which is one of the two official balls of the inauguration.
Chief Petty Officer Stepp, a Loretto resident, is a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve unit from Nashville and has been working as part of the Joint Task Force in preparing for the inauguration.
She said she has been excited about her role in the inauguration since her selection.
"It's an honor and privilege to be selected to be a part of this," said Stepp, who has been in the Naval Reserves since 1991. She said she had to apply to be a part of the Joint Task Force.
"You have apply and then go through an interview process before the actual selection is done," she said.
Petty Officer First Class Elizabeth H. Bordelon, a media operations official with the Joint Task Force, said Stepp's selection was a "time-consuming process."
"It's a huge deal to get selected in special events," she said. "They are the ones who are dealing with the high level guests."
Stepp said she will be an assistant to Admiral Jonathan Greenhert, the chief of naval operations, the night of the inauguration.
"There will be plenty to do before that night," she said. "I'll be too busy to be at the inauguration itself."
Bordelon said the ball will be so busy that everyone has an aide at the ball.
"She will be greeting the dignitaries and acting like a liaison with the admiral and his personal assistants," Bordelon said.
"This is an awesome opportunity," Stepp said. "I may not get to meet the president, but who knows? I'll be there just in case."
This is Stepp's third inauguration. The first two — in 2005 and 2009 — she was a part of the parade as an escort.
"This really tops my career off," said the 1979 Loretto High School graduate.
"I always wanted to go to the ball, so here I am. My grandmother always called me Cinderella. So, now I'm going to the ball."
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.