Jo Dee Messina's tour schedule is heavily booked, but when the country singer was invited to perform as part of the Independence Day concert from the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol, she jumped at the chance -- as long as she was allowed to perform "America the Beautiful."
"It's one of my dreams to play in Washington on the Fourth of July," she said. "I've been trying to do that since the first record came out" in 1996.
Messina, 28, has many of Nashville's finest session musicians appearing on her two albums, but she said that can't compare with being backed by the National Symphony Orchestra, led by pops conductor Erich Kunzel.
"It's like driving a Lamborghini or Mercedes, or whatever the fanciest car is," she said with a laugh.
Messina also is scheduled to perform "God Bless the U.S.A." and "I'm Alright," the chart-topping title track from her million-selling second album.
"A Capitol Fourth 1999," airing live Sunday at 8 p.m. on PBS, also celebrates the 100th anniversary of the births of two musical masters. Nell Carter leads a salute to Duke Ellington, and Maureen McGovern sings a medley of Hoagy Carmichael tunes.
In addition, the program includes jazz saxophone artist Kenny G rendering songs from his latest album, the Temptations Review keeping the Motown sound alive and the U.S. Army Fife and Drum Corps providing a salute to George Washington.
"A Capitol Fourth" is hosted by Barry Bostwick, who portrayed the first president in a 1984 CBS miniseries.
Making it to Washington is a mission accomplished for Messina, who grew up about 45 miles west of Boston.
"My eighth-grade class came for a weekend, but I couldn't afford to go. My mother couldn't afford to send me," she said. "So, in a perfect world, I would be able to take my mom to see all the monuments. I would love for her to see that stuff. She's seventy this year, and she's always said that in her lifetime she'd like to tour the White House."
Success has allowed the red-haired singer to fulfill some of her mother's dreams. Messina bested Aerosmith in votes for Boston Music Awards act of the year, and she's the first woman in country music to have three consecutive multi-week No. 1 hits.
"I did get a chance to buy my mom a car," said Messina, who moved to Nashville when she was 19. "It was her dream car, a Saturn wagon, built in Tennessee. She wanted a wagon because she goes to yard sales every weekend."
Such time-consuming excursions are rare for Messina. She performs more than 200 concerts a year and has one stretch of 31 show days in a row. Days set aside for personal time usually are appropriated for phone interviews.
"Any time something comes up, I say, `Okay,' " she remarked in the easy, good-natured way that has won over fans. She is known for spending time with well-wishers after shows and for donating to hospitals the flowers she receives.
"At this point I'm not missing anything," said Messina, pausing to calm her barking yellow Labrador. She was outside, she explained, since exterminators were spraying the house.
She laughed. Such mundane tasks actually were a welcome respite. "Yeah, laundry, and I'm washing the car later today," she joked.
The Academy of Country Music's top new female vocalist still had several more phone interviews scheduled. And she would soon be leaving home again for another tour -- heads Carolina, tails California -- with days filled with bus rides, where "someone else always has the remote; it's either cooking shows or baseball," and concerts.
"When I'm not doing shows, I'm writing songs or listening to music. The person that I am is music," she said. "If you're a performer, you do it because you love it. And I love to do what I do. Woo!"
Another American Dream come true.
Host Barry Bostwick is a Tony Award-winner who stars on the comedy "Spin City." His theater work includes "Grease" and "The Robber Bridegroom." He also played the first president in the 1984 CBS miniseries "George Washington" and Brad in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
Nell Carter won Tony and Emmy awards for her turns in "Ain't Misbehavin'." She has appeared in several Broadway plays, feature films and television productions, including the sitcom "Gimme a Break."
Jazz saxophonist Kenny G is a Grammy-winning performer whose eight albums have sold more than 36 million copies.
The Temptations Review features Richard Street and Ali Woodson, former singers of the Motown group. Chris Arnold, Perry Moore and Willie Greene round out the lineup.
Maureen McGovern, singer of the No. 1 hit "The Morning After," has appeared in "The Pirates of Penzance" and "Nine." Her latest album was nominated for a Grammy.
Under the direction of pops conductor Erich Kunzel, the National Symphony Orchestra shares the limelight with other performers -- and the fireworks. Plus, the U.S. Army Fife and Drum Corps salutes George Washington.
CAPTION: Country singer Jo Dee Messina is part of "A Capitol Fourth," live at 8 p.m. Sunday.
CAPTION: BARRY BOSTWICK
CAPTION: NELL CARTER
CAPTION: KENNY G
CAPTION: MAUREEN MCGOVERN
CAPTION: ERICH KUNZEL