This Turlock teacher sang with Michael Bublé; how her students helped make it happen

See Michael Bublé sing with Turlock sixth grade teacher

Modesto CA resident Diana Fairbanks, a sixth grade teacher from Turlock, sang “A Whole New World” with Michael Bublé at his concert at the Oracle Arena in Oakland April 3, 2019.
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Modesto CA resident Diana Fairbanks, a sixth grade teacher from Turlock, sang “A Whole New World” with Michael Bublé at his concert at the Oracle Arena in Oakland April 3, 2019.

Well, he didn’t exactly show her a whole new world. But superstar Michael Bublé did give a Turlock sixth grade teacher a whole new once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sing with him on stage.

Modesto native Diana Fairbanks and her husband Jeff went to see the Canadian crooner at Oracle Arena in Oakland last week. They brought with them a handmade sign by some of her sixth graders at Turlock’s Walter M. Brown Elementary School. About mid-way through the concert, Bublé noticed Fairbanks’ sign, which had a drawing of the singer and the words “Can You Show Me the World” on the other side.

He went over to talk with her, autographed the poster and then chatted from the stage. She introduced herself as “Mrs. Fairbanks” and told him her students made the sign and wanted him to sing with her. So he obliged. Then the pair belted out “A Whole New World” from Disney’s animated classic “Aladdin” in front of 15,000 cheering fans.

Afterward the crowd roared, Bublé gave Fairbanks a hug and shook her husband’s hand, approvingly, then continued the concert.

“It was an amazing and surreal experience,” Fairbanks said. “I woke up that morning and I just felt like it was going to happen. I’m normally not that kind of person; I don’t try to look at things from rose-colored glasses. But I think a positive mindset helped, which is what I teach my sixth graders. You’ve got to believe in yourself and if you fail so what.”

But none of it almost happened. The day before the show the Fairbanks didn’t have tickets. While she has been a longtime fan, Fairbanks has never been able to go to one of Bublé’s concerts before. Her husband, who works at the Modesto Irrigation District, had wanted to get her tickets to his stop in Sacramento this coming July for her birthday.

He happened to go on Ticketmaster Tuesday night, and saw that some prime front-row seats had been released to the Oakland show on Wednesday night. He snapped them up about 24-hours before the show. The next day at school, Fairbanks told her class about going to the concert that evening.

She noticed one of her student’s artwork, and asked if he could draw a portrait of Bublé for a sign to take with her. He did, and two other students started helping. They turned the poster into a magic carpet à la “Aladdin” because they knew Fairbanks is a big Disney fan. A teacher for 15 years, she has been at Brown for six years.

But then when they went into Oracle Arena, the sign nearly didn’t make it in with them. Venue workers told her the poster was too big, so she asked if she could take it in if she tore it in half. They agreed, and then later her husband found some gaffers tape to sneakily put it back together.

Fairbanks said she made sure to keep the sign low, then in between songs Bublé noticed the elaborate sign, with tassels on its ends like a magic carpet, and called her over. He autographed the poster with an “I love it!” and was going to just hand it back. Then Fairbanks told him about her student’s request.

“He held the poster, and gave me the microphone and asked, ‘What are we doing again?’ The band just started to play the song so I started singing,” Fairbanks said. “I am not a professional singer by any means, but I think If you have fun it actually sounds better.”

Fairbanks does not sing professionally, but does occasionally at her church. In the past, before she raised her four now adult children, she took voice lessons and appeared in the Townsend Opera Chorus. When singing with Bublé her voice was clear and crisp, and she even remembered to change the lyrics to “Prince” from “Princess” while singing to him. After the first few notes, the delight on Bublé’s face was palpable.

When it was over, Fairbanks texted her kids about the experience. Her oldest son didn’t believe it, until they posted the video. After two other concertgoers even asked her for photos, like a bona fide celebrity.

The next day she shared it with more friends, her co-workers and class at at Brown Elementary. She played the video and the three students who made the sign were beaming. Fairbanks later tweeted a picture of them holding the sign with his autograph to Bublé.

After the concert the singer posted on Twitter about the Oakland show saying, “It was a whole new world in Oakland tonight.”

“I think the odds were so slim, we have to be in the right place at the right time with the right fan and the right poster. It’s so much. It just felt like it was supposed to be,” said Jeff Fairbanks. “The message for kids is don’t ever give up on dreams. If it’s something you want to do, put your mind to it and accomplish it. She had to come out of shell a little to do this.”

For her part, Fairbanks said she was thrilled with her moment in the limelight and humbled by people’s response to her singing.

“People have said they’re so happy for me. They’ve said, ‘I can’t stop watching it. It makes me cry, makes me laugh, makes me happy for you,’” she said.

So who has Mrs. Fairbanks set her eyes to sing with next?

“Josh Groban has always been on my bucket list,” she said. “I dream of singing with Josh Groban.”

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.