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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Anthem-Singing 101: Smithtown P.I.O. Nicole Gargiulo’s Advice to Star-Spangled Hopefuls



Last week, The Messenger detailed how the Long Island Ducks are holding auditions at their Fairfield Properties Ballpark home in Central Islip on April 8 for their 2023 slate of pre-game National Anthem singers.

Despite its popularity, the musical touchstone of patriotism is more difficult to perform than meets the eye— hence the demand for only the best in store to be granted the coveted microphone.

Even the most talented singers can freeze in that moment they first hear the echo of feedback repeat their belches back to them as thousands buzz with glee to recite the successive words they already know by heart. As heavyweight boxing legend Mike Tyson memorably once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Known for performing her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at local events, Town of Smithtown Public Information Officer Nicole Gargiulo has a few tips for those going out for the gig.

“Know your audience and how to grab them,” she told The Messenger. “If you’re singing for a group of Veterans, or law enforcement… stick with the traditional performance. [But] In a stadium-like setting, involving the audience is a great way to be memorable. Singing the National Anthem traditionally gives people the opportunity to sing along with you.”

In this day and age, while it is not encouraged to take, say, the Roseanne Barr approach, i.e: through a mocking lens, experimenting with an alternative-sounding delivery akin to Jose Feliciano’s then-wholly controversial but since-celebrated version as seen ahead of Game 5 of the 1968 World Series, are now plenty welcomed. Just as everyone was born an original, and should “not die a copy,” everyone has their own interpretation of the National Anthem that can certainly come alive when the timing is absolutely right.

On the Ducks’ and WALK 97.5 FM’s upcoming “Anthem Idol” event, Gargiulo recommends “Surprising your audition panel.”

“If you can belt in R & B and you’re a tiny little thing… you’ll be remembered by the judges.”

She adds, “Set your psyche up ahead of singing: The words to the National Anthem are so much more than a poem… it’s a story. When you sing it, you’re sharing a critical moment in our Nation’s founding.” 

Though the common listener-in who’s singing along with the words may bow out of attempting the high notes, those tabbed to lead the commencement have no choice in the matter.

Per her voice coach, Gargiulo says hitting the high notes simply requires glute-clenching “to help keep your tambour on pitch” and prevent one’s tone from breaking. She believes if you’re most fixated on nailing the lyrics, that the crescendo could be botched— wherein the loudness of the high notes will subsequently far outweigh that of the low ones.

Oh say can you see… BY THE DAWN’S…’ if you hit the high notes softly at the beginning,” Gargiulo says, “you have somewhere to build up to.”

Memorize the lyrics, smile and practice and myotherapy [earlobe-to-neck massaging to bring ease to the vocal cords] prior to, says Gargiulo.

Practicing all three, in general, will provide a perfect rhythm of airflow in the head, and bring upon relaxed nerves through the understandably nerve-wracking procedure.

Even prolific Anthem singers need to rely on their own preparatory routines to stay centered before the big event— itself designed to jettison the even bigger event that immediately follows.

Moreover, going in blind for something this important would not be recommended by those who have long taken on the responsibility of honoring America’s past, present and future in one fell swoop before large, soon-to-be roaring crowds.

“When you sing with a smile, your voice stays towards the front of your head space and it travels with a warmth that sends chills all over the audience’s bodies,” Gargiulo said. “You also look great doing it!”

Michael J. Reistetter
Michael J. Reistetter
Mike Reistetter, former Editor in Chief, is now a guest contributor to The Messenger Papers. Mike's current career in film production allows for his unique outlook on entertainment writing. Mike has won second place in "Best Editorials" at the New York Press Association 2022 Better Newspaper Contest.