Just hours after the memorial service for Michael Jackson on July 7, Rolling Stone magazine ran an online article that answered a question on many viewers’ minds: Who was the mystery singer performing “Heal the World” at the conclusion of the service? Who was the singer who “wowed the crowd and the millions watching around the world?”
The answer to that question is Judith Hill (’06), a Biola University alumna who was working as a backup singer for Jackson’s planned “This Is It!” concert series in London’s O2 Arena. Hill, a Los Angeles native raised in a Christian home with a family of musicians, studied music composition under John Browning at Biola’s Conservatory of Music, where she excelled in all areas and took her work very seriously, said conservatory director George Boespflug.
The Pasadena-based Hill was selected to close the service as the featured soloist for “Heal the World” because she had been rehearsing the song as Jackson’s duet partner for the London concerts. The tour’s vocal director informed Hill just minutes before the service that her performance would be the memorial’s finale.
Singing to a live audience of tens of millions, it was an opportunity to relay a message of God’s love in a time of tragedy, Hill said.
“Nothing else mattered. Cameras, media and business all became a faded echo drowned out by the overwhelming presence of God’s love,” she wrote on her blog in the days after the event. “Not sure how I ended up closing the service, but I understood it in my heart. It wasn’t showtime; it was ministry time.”
It wasn’t until after Hill’s performance that it dawned on her just how big of a deal it was. Within days, Hill was featured on Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight, and articles began popping up all over the Internet.
After attending Biola, Hill worked as a background singer for a few different artists, including a one-year stint in France as background singer for French pop star Michel Polnareff. Before getting the job with Jackson, she was recording her first solo pop album, a project she has picked up again now that things have settled down a bit. She’s currently considering contract offers and praying about different opportunities that have come her way, she said.
“There have been doors opened, but I’m still waiting for the right door,” she told Biola Magazine. “There are things that I could do right now but I’m still waiting for the right situation to happen.”