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BRIGHT FUTURE: FHS grads leave musical mark on Miss-Lou

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — André Keys, right, and Greg Robinson, left, sing and play the guitar together Wednesday afternoon at the Jerry Lee Lewis Rockabilly Plaza, where they played at the Soul Survivors Festival in May. Keys and Robinson were two performers part of the Concordia Parish Schools Gifted and Talented Program who performed in Baton Rogue for Louisiana’s Bicentennial.

By Mollie Beth Wallace

The Natchez Democrat

FERRIDAY — From belting out the National Anthem for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to strumming the blues in the Saloon Under-the-Hill, two Ferriday High School graduates have made their mark on the Miss-Lou.

André Keys, 20, and Greg Robinson, 18, performed on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol Building in Baton Rouge for the bicentennial celebration, which was April 28.

The duo was invited to perform by Sylvia Ritchie, a music teacher with the Concordia Parish Gifted and Talented Program who organized a performance representing the Crossroads section of Louisiana.

Keys, who performed his renditions of “Old Man River” and “Nobody Knows,” said Ritchie has helped develop his raw talent into a polished musical style.

“If it wasn’t for (Ritchie), I wouldn’t be in the position I am today,” Keys said. “(The program) took me to places I never imagined.”

Keys said he began singing when he was a young boy, but never as more than a hobby.

But when Keys entered ninth grade at Ferriday High School, one of his teachers suggested he audition for the gifted and talented program.

Keys admitted being nervous when he first sang for an audience, but with time and experience he said he overcame his stage fright.

“I used to get so nervous,” Keys said. “My hands would get so sweaty. Now I just get so into my songs I don’t worry about the crowd.”

Ritchie said another teacher recommended Robinson to her when he was in 10th grade. Although Robinson had only been playing the guitar for two years, his talent landed him a spot in the gifted and talented program.

“I used to paint and draw,” Robinson said. “But I got bored with it.”

Robinson said he became interested in the guitar while visiting his aunt in Texas.

When he asked his aunt to play the guitar, Robinson said she played “Hoochie Coochie Man” by Muddy Waters.

Two years later, Robinson strummed his guitar and sang the same song in Baton Rouge while crowds danced in the streets.

Robinson said he prefers music to drawing and painting because there is more emotion involved.

“The thing about art is you have to figure out what (the artist) is feeling,” he said. “With music, you can just feel it.”

Robinson said he will attend Delta State University in the fall and pursue a career in music.

“I want to change the way music is going now,” Robinson said. “It seems like the whole industry is just worried about money.

“I don’t care if it’s just in a small town, somebody is going to hear me,” he said.

Keys said he plans to finish his technical degree in welding from Central Louisiana Technical College at the Ferriday Campus.

In his free time, however, Keys said he will continue singing at Bethel Baptist Church in Vidalia.