“The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Dozens of times. Dozens of voices. Dozens of personalities.
That’s what judges and spectators took in at the Hagerstown Suns national anthem tryouts Saturday at the Valley Mall food court.
About 50 people auditioned for a chance to sing at the biggest of the team’s games, including the season opener and the Fourth of July.
Soprano Leslie Forcino, 20, of Williamsport, was among the ranks of singers. She sang in her high school show choir and performs in community theater with The Potomac Playmakers, but she’d never auditioned to sing at a Suns game before.
“I think I did pretty well. There were some pitchy parts for me,” she said.
Forcino said she tried to keep the song traditional while adding elements to “jazz it up,” including trills, variation in tempo, and holding certain notes longer for effect. She said loves the range of the song, which is known for being difficult to sing due to its octave and a half worth of pitches.
“It’s really challenging to get from that low note to the high note. It’s fun,” Forcino said. “The song can be sung in so many different ways and they can all sound great. It’s such a personal song.”
Judges were Miss Washington County Mary Teal Mulligan, WHAG meteorologist Bryan Tolle, and Music and Arts vocal instructor Ashley Imes. Contestants were scored on execution and knowledge of words; clarity of voice; stage presence; and overall performance.
Lauren Dukehart, 13, of Mercersburg, Pa., auditioned and landed a gig singing for the Suns at Municipal Stadium two years ago and decided to throw her hat in the ring again this year. Though she said the experience was “nerve-wracking,” Lauren conveyed confidence. A country music fan, she comfortably shifted and slid her voice giving the anthem a trace of a country lilt.
Lauren said the song was hard to sing, but not only because of its considerable range.
“I don’t know what all of the words mean,” she said.
Contestant Jassidi Minisci, 7, of Chambersburg, Pa. said she was in the same boat. Dressed in a red, white and blue sundress, Jassidi charmed the spectators with the sweet-yet-full timbre of her voice. She has appeared twice in Antietam Recreation’s “Cowboy Christmas” and she is in rehearsals for “The Sound of Music” at the Capitol Theatre. But learning the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” was especially challenging.
“They were big!” she said.
Though she stumbled over some of them during her audition, she said she used the skills she’s learned from experience. She picked up where she could, kept going, and finished strong.
Tiny and Katy of WAYZ 104.7’s “The Tiny And Katy Show” emceed the event. Matt Leite, media relations specialist for the Suns, said the names of the top five singers will be announced one per day next week on the duos’ morning radio show. The singer who wins opening day honors will be saved for Friday.
Those five singers will advance to a WHAG TV morning show competition. The winner of that contest will sing on the Fourth of July at the ballpark.
Everyone who auditioned Saturday will be included in a “bank” of singers from which Suns organizers draw and could be called upon to sing during the course of the season. Leite said the talent was “unreal.”
“Right out of the gate it was evident that people were here to show off what they can do,” he said. “There are a lot of talented people right here in Hagerstown and Washington County. There is no reason to go searching elsewhere. We have the best fans right here.”