The Mason Spirit

Karin Hendrickson

Torch Song: Olympic Theme Song Penned by Mason Graduate Student

By Michelle Nery

Driven by the inspiring performances of U.S. figure skaters Paul Wylie and Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, Karin Hendrickson, who received her master's degree in Instrumental Conducting from George Mason this May, crafted the chorus to a piece that would eventually become the official 2002 Olympic Torch Relay theme song for this year's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"I didn't think anything of it at the time. I just got these feelings, headed for the piano, and wrote it out on a piece of paper and put it away," she says. Hendrickson didn't return to "Carry the Flame" until six years later.

While preparing some songs for studio production, she began looking through several folders of sketches, ran across the chorus, and thought it was worth finishing.

"The song traces the story of a small child dreaming about being an Olympian," says Hendrickson, "and that the ability to be an Olympian isn't a result of standing on a podium but is already possible because of what is inside each of us."

After recording the song, Hendrickson submitted her work to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. "My only goal was for one of those guys to put the tape in a player. I really felt the song would sell itself from there on out." She received the good news in May 2001 that her song had been selected as the torch relay theme.

Hendrickson admits that the song also holds a more personal meaning. An avid basketball player throughout high school and college, she reached a point where she needed to move away from sports.

"It was hard to let basketball go," she says. "Much of this song comes from sitting down and coming to terms with having to give it up. I realized that even if I weren't a superstar basketball player, I could still find a way to inspire other people."

The song made its debut at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park and was played in 110 community celebrations along the torch relay route through 46 states. Aretha Franklin recorded "Carry the Flame" for a CD release. The song was also part of a live pre-Olympic kickoff television special.