ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — The Round Rock Express baseball team is holding open auditions Monday to fill spots at home games to sing the national anthem.
A club record 180 people were signed up to sing by Monday morning, all hoping for a spot at one of the team’s 70 home games this season.
“I felt really nervous about it because I’ve never sang in front of that many people before,” said Lucy Welch, a 10-year-old who auditioned last year.
She was stuffy because of her allergies, but said the judges told her “gunk doesn’t count.” Staff at Dell Diamond conatcted her mom, Carol, after the auditions to ask which day the young singer could sing in front of thousands of baseball fans.
“We would drive by almost every day on [U.S.] 79,” Carol Welch said, “and she would say, ‘One day I’m going to sing there.'”
The day she did, last June, Welch said she was more nervous than her daughter was. But Lucy “knocked it out of the ballpark,” Welch said, and the fans agreed. “The gentleman in front of us said I’ve never felt more proud to be an American than right now. To me that was a huge compliment,” the singer’s mom said.
Although she’s done it before, Lucy was one of more than a dozen singers who spent a recent Saturday preparing at a workshop in Georgetown hosted by Laurie Winckel, owner of the Vocal Edge Voice Studio. She told the group that just as important as the tune and the words is to be a “song leader.”
“We want the focus to be on the flag and the meaning behind that, and we want the audience to participate,” Winckel said.
Before holding mock auditions during the two-hour session, Winckel recounted the history of the Star-Spangled Banner, originally a poem written by Francis Scott Key as he watched a British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Maryland during the War of 1812.
“I want you to think about it from the historical perspective,” Winckel told the group, “and what that means.”
The Express’ rules mirror the vocal coach’s guidelines — that singers keep the song simple, in a “traditional, military-style with little-to-no creative variation” so as not to move the focus from the flag to the performer.
Winckel will be judging the auditions for the second time this year. Last year, 76 people auditioned, a lower number than expected because the tryouts were held offsite. A team spokesman said 28 of those people were offered singing spots, as the others were filled with musicians, choirs, and singers who auditioned on video.
Bella Justis, another young singer who planned to audition Monday, said she learned a lot about how to sing the anthem well from the workshop.
“I’m still working on it,” the 12-year-old said. She’s been singing her whole life, but has only been learning the Star-Spangled Banner for the last few weeks in preparation for the audition. She has something of an advantage over other singers.
“I love performing in front of people,” she said. “I actually get less nervous the more people I perform in front of.”
Lucy Welch also has a bit of an advantage going into Monday, having not only aced the audition once before, but having sung in front of so many people in an echoing stadium.
“Knowing what it’s like,” she said, “it’s easier.”
Still, the song is a difficult one to sing, let alone master. Winckel advises singers to warm up their voices before trying to perform the melody. “I don’t recommend singing it cold,” she said.
The auditions take place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Monday at the United Heritage Center at Dell Diamond. Anyone interested in auditioning needs to fill out an application, available here, but there’s no fee to try out. Singers can also submit video auditions to the team’s Director of Ballpark Entertainment, Steve Richards, at email@example.com.
In addition to the no-frills version the judges want to hear, singers should keep the song to 90 seconds.