Thank you to everyone who read, shared, and responded to the first article on my Anthem Quest. It is amazing to think that total strangers are coming out in earnest to help me book the last six teams! I am truly grateful. I will say, what is most helpful is a contact; someone who knows someone in the organization. That is the one thing that will actually get an email answered or a demo opened or a submission to the top of the pile. (So I look forward to hearing from all of you who know someone at the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, and Atlanta Braves, and I thank you effusively in advance!)
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Has my story inspired you? Do you want to sing an anthem? Go for it! And to help, here are a few things nobody tells you:
- Sending in a demo is typically how you “audition,” but many teams now have open auditions at the stadium in the off-season. Stand out by being brilliant, not gimmicky.
- Drink a lot of water. A LOT. You want to keep those chords hydrated, of course, but even after singing for 20-odd teams, I still get nervous = DRYMOUTH = BAD. There is usually an intern running around happy to fill up your water bottle. And only one team (who shall remain nameless,) that made me BUY my own bottle of water from a vendor!
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- You usually stand behind home plate, or off to the side. (One time when I sang for the Mets, they were honoring a member of the organization who had passed away, so both teams were standing along the baseline and I was supposed to go halfway to the mound. A) it is a LOT farther than you think! B) there is NOTHING like standing in the center of the infield. Amazing.) Ladies, many teams prohibit heels on the grass; I find a sensible wedge to be the perfect solution.
- Some teams have you face the stands, some have you face out towards center field (usually where the flag is.) Either way, there is typically a dude with a huge camera right on top of you. One of many distractions.
- Yes, Virginia, there IS a delay, and it can be HUGE. If you’ve ever wondered why some people sing the anthem so slowly, that’s why – they’re instinctively trying to catch up to themselves. I subtly tap the tempo on my leg to keep in time. Bless the teams that give you in-ear monitors! (Not all of them do.)
- Blast your pitch-pipe as close to singing as possible, and keep humming the starting note to yourself – there is so much noise, and often loud music, playing right before the anthem, that it is easy to lose the pitch, and you DON’T want to start that particular song too high, no siree.
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- Make sure you know your cue! It’s not always right after they say your name. Your contact may often give you a “go” sign, but when I sang “God Bless America” for the Cardinals, the huge choir that sang the anthem just before me was crowding the warning track, and I couldn’t find my guy. Luckily, I’d double-checked the announcer’s cue. Nervewracking couple of seconds, though: now? No. Now? No. Now?
- My personal opinion – keep the riffs to a minimum, you’re not auditioning for American Idol. By all means, show your personality, but this isn’t about you, it’s about honoring our country. Err on the side of respect vs. look-what-I-can-do!
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Getting to sing our national anthem over 30 times for professional sports teams has made me SO much more patriotic. While some folks don’t even register it besides a pre-game tradition, it does mean a great deal to many people. It is an honor and a privilege to be chosen to deliver our anthem, and I have appreciated these opportunities for many reasons. Even while some things going on in our country right now are making a lot of people crazy, the anthem transcends a particular individual or party. It honors our history, good and bad, and the song itself illustrates the gumption and dedication of Americans. The anthem and other patriotic songs (like “God Bless America,” which I’ve sung for a number of teams,) are not just mere words and melodies.
And that became crystal clear on a starry night in May, 2011, when the history books of our country got a major addendum. That story is coming soon…
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Joe Maddon is back in LA, with history and a hat on his side.
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