Singer-songwriter and past American Idol contestant Casey McQuillen
came to Shore on January 29 to share her inspiring music and messages about bullying-prevention and self-confidence. Her visit, which included three concerts along with smaller sessions with students, was part of Shore’s week-long observance of the Great Kindness Challenge.
A North Shore native and a graduate of Phillips Academy Andover and Berklee College of Music, McQuillen earned national recognition as a contestant on Season 13 of American Idol
and amassed well over a million hits on her YouTube
channel. Capitalizing on the attention, she created the “You Matter” Tour to engage students at schools around the country. In her performances at Shore, she told listeners her musical career began in seventh grade, when she taught herself to play guitar and wrote her first song. At the same time, she recounted, she was dealing with bullying and anxiety, and struggled to fit in.
Using songs and stories, McQuillen explained that through those experiences, she learned that real-life is not air-brushed: it’s the bumps in the road that make each individual unique. “Since I was 13, I’ve had braces, glasses, and bad haircuts; I’ve fallen in and out of love with boys and in and out of love with myself,” she said. “Along the way, my songs captured my journey of growing up, and growing to accept myself for being imperfect.”
During a more casual conversation with a small group of students in Shore’s Library, McQuillen answered questions about becoming a musician, performing on American Idol, and pursuing music in high school and beyond. She generously handed autographed posters to each child in attendance, many of whom were no doubt thrilled at the chance to get to know this local celebrity.
Shore’s Dean of Students, Sean Melia, orchestrated McQuillen’s visit after learning about the messages she shared through her tour. “Over the course of Casey’s visit,” he said, “I was astounded at the energy and positivity that radiated from her. She connected with kids of all ages, going above and beyond by giving extra time to kids to discuss the challenges of balancing school with other passions, song-writing, performing, practicing, and stage fright. We were lucky to have her and I look forward to having her back in the future.”