GREENSBORO — As it turns out, Dudley High School choir director Robert Jarrell wasn't just talking the talk.
"He had connections, for real," said senior Isaiah Hairston, who was surprised, along with his classmates, to find himself rehearsing with singer, songwriter and former "The Voice" reality-show contestant Vanessa Ferguson.
Ferguson, who lives in Greensboro, is working with the choir for a few days this week in preparation for a performance in the school's auditorium at 7 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $5.
She is joining the choir on two pieces for their spring concert. One is her song "With You," and the other is "Happy Feelings" by Frankie Beverly. The spring concert leans toward fun and inspirational pieces, Jarrell said.
In rehearsal with the group on Thursday, Ferguson was chill and focused, taking time to explore different tweaks to the planned interplay of her voice and theirs.
"You guys just give me that 'love' — nice big crescendo," Ferguson instructed, referring to a song lyric.
She and Jarrell were classmates studying music together at N.C. A&T. Ferguson said her original dream was to be a music teacher, but she moved away from that path after leaving college due to a medical issue.
Jarell said he brought her in to work with the students as well as talk to them about her experiences in music because he wanted them to hear the perspective of a professional within the industry. And also, he said, because he wanted them to find out, "what it's like to sing with a star."
Ferguson said it felt rejuvenating and inspiring to work with the Dudley students.
"They are not necessarily blood-related, but they are my kids still," she said.