Not long before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chris Badgett ’13 and his mother had planned to see “The Color Purple” together. The popular musical, based on a novel by Alice Walker and a 1985 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, is one of Badgett’s favorites. So is one of its musical numbers, “I’m Here.”
Badgett, who has a music degree from the University of Lynchburg, never got to see “The Color Purple” with his mother. She died in February 2021 of COVID-19, shortly after recovering from brain cancer.
In her honor, Badgett performed “I’m Here” in the first round of Endstation Theatre Company’s Hometown Talent Competition, which was held on campus July 5. The show was part of Endstation’s Summer Festival, which the University is hosting this month.
“‘I’m Here’ is the moment when Miss Celie finds a deep love for herself and realizes she is a strong person,” Badgett said of the show’s main character. “So much trauma has happened in my life that I forgot how to love myself and realize that I’m a good person. Music and seeking therapy were such a savior for me.”
Badgett said his former music professors, whom he’s kept up with since graduation, have also been supportive during this tough time. “The Lynchburg community, both the friends I made and professors I had, encouraged me to be myself and strive to be the best version of me,” he said. “Shoutout to the music department. I used to talk Dr. Kara Dean’s and Dr. Johnson Scott’s ears off about my entire life on a daily basis. They both really helped me with so much.”
Fifteen contestants performed in the first round of the Hometown Talent Competition. Seven, including Badgett, will compete in the finals on Saturday, July 31. The show, held at the outdoor pavilion behind the University townhomes, starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, which are $15, are available on Endstation’s website.
As a student, Badgett performed with the Concert Choir but, as a member of the University’s Wind Symphony and Orchestra, he was primarily focused on clarinet performance. Currently, he’s Amherst Middle School’s chorus and general music teacher and the assistant band instructor for the Amherst County Marching Band.
His dream goal is to someday sing the role of Asaka in “Once on This Island.” One reason he wanted to perform in the competition, he said, was to prove he has a good singing voice, too. “I love singing with my students and … entertaining people with my voice,” he said.
Badgett was one of the first music education students Dr. Kara Eaton Dean worked with when she joined Lynchburg’s music faculty in the fall of 2011. “We have known him as a multitalented and multifaceted individual,” she said. “Chris is incredibly loving and nurturing as a music educator. He has been working in Amherst County schools for several years now and he is surely a role model to his young students.
“His mom recently passed away and he is now the primary caregiver to his 17-year-old brother. During the past few years, I have become closer with Chris and I am humbled by his strength and positive attitude whenever challenged.
“He wants to see the world as a better place for future generations and he strives to be a bright light for others. I am so proud of Chris and his accomplishments and I cannot wait to see what his future holds.”