For more than 90 years, the performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been an enduring ritual at professional athletic events, one that ESPN The Magazine describes as “sacred.”
On Saturday, April 12, Andolyn Medina ’17 will get the opportunity to add her own unique chapter to this American tradition when she sings the National Anthem before the game between the NBA’s Washington Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks in Washington, D.C.
“A friend of my mom’s suggested sending videos to some NBA teams of me singing the anthem,” explains Medina, an opera singer who hails from Chesapeake, Virginia. She says the Wizards expressed interest in scheduling her to perform before a game last month, “but I couldn’t because it was a school day.” The team subsequently booked her for a weekend contest that would not interfere with her studies.
Medina is a seasoned veteran of performing the National Anthem before live audiences. She first sang it publicly when she was eight years old at the ceremony commemorating her father’s retirement from the Navy. Since then, she estimates she’s performed the song as many as 50 times for various official events in Chesapeake and for Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, who represents Virginia’s Third District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But, what prompted the friend of Medina’s mother to urge her to approach the Wizards and other NBA teams was one particularly special anthem performance.
“Based on Congressman Scott’s recommendation, I was asked to sing before an appearance by President Obama at Phoebus High School in Hampton in July 2012,” she recalls. Afterward, “he shook my hand, asked me how I was doing in school and where I wanted to go to college. He was down-to-earth. My mom asked me, ‘Did it hit you that you were talking to the President of the United States?’ I think we related well because he has two daughters of his own.”
Medina says she’s never sung in front of an audience as large as what she will encounter at the Wizards-Bucks game: Verizon Center, the Wizards’ home arena, seats more than 20,200 spectators for basketball. Yet, with the help of her father, she’s discovered a way to keep any nervousness in check, whether she’s performing before the President or thousands of sports fans.
“When I was younger, I messed up the National Anthem once and my dad encouraged me to visualize the importance of the song and the symbolism of what it means to sing it for the country. Since then, whenever I have performed the anthem, I have thought about all the soldiers who have defended our rights and our freedoms. I really try to put myself in the moment so people can feel the passion of the song.” On April 12, she’ll also have her very own cheering section: more than 20 family members and friends are planning to attend the game.
Medina is a psychology major at Hollins and wants to become a pediatrician. She is enrolled in a three-year accelerated program that includes pre-med prerequisites. But, she says she is “intent on having music remain a part of my life, so I am really interested in music therapy. I want to be able to help others through music.”
And, don’t be surprised to see Medina singing the National Anthem at more big-time pro games in the future. She says her mom is going to send a video of her performance at the Wizards-Bucks contest to the Washington Redskins “because I’m a really big Redskins fan!”