I’ve been practicing the National Anthem for about 25 years. So when I had my debut this last weekend at the LA Equestrian Center, I was ready. The Equidome is a large covered outdoor arena that seats 3500. While it wasn’t full on Saturday, it was still a grand event, featuring Spanish horses, pageantry and American spirit. I came on to sing after a 5 minute horse and flag routine that featured 10 horses and riders. You may wonder if I was nervous? Not at all, until about 1 minute before going on when the words started to escape my memory. Going into the event I had thought about having the lyrics on my hands or something just in case. But the soundcheck the night before was so flawless and my 25 years of practicing would surely protect me from any sudden loss of mind. Right?
I was literally looking for a pen backstage to jot a few marks on my hand before going on but then I paused, sat down for second, closed my eyes and took some breaths instead. I knew from my many years of performing experience that the words would be there once I found myself clearly in the moment and clarified my objective. So as I walked to my mark in front of 10 horses staring at me on the dirt floor of the Equidome, the jockeys holding 10-foot high American flags, I remembered that singing the National Anthem was more important than my own concerns and fears.
It was a capella, so of course I had a pitch pipe - which I always tell my students to have when singing a capella. Don’t expect yourself to remember your exact starting note unless you have perfect pitch! Blowing the pitch is also a great way of focusing in on the moment: listening to the pitch carefully and imagining singing it. That’s all I needed to get back to my purpose. One can apply the concept of “it’s bigger than you” to any kind of performance, whether it’s for stage, on camera or voice over. Our larger objective as artists is to tell a story, to serve a writer, a community, or even a nation.