[Editor’s Note: Lesley’s all female a cappella group “Ladies First” recently gave its final performance of the semester, before an enthusiastic audience. But several years ago, one of the members of the group sang for an entirely different audience: baseball fans at Fenway Park. She looks back on that amazing experience.]
As the last few weeks of my senior year in high school started dwindling down, my mind began whirling with the possibilities of my future. I had made the bold decision to move down to the big city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the fall to attend college. It was a brave step; considering the rural New Hampshire town I grew up in. Now that this life change was approaching, feelings of determination and motivation captivated me. I no longer wanted to feel shy or scared. I wanted be bold, confident, and fearless. With my newfound determination, I made a promise to myself, vowing to seize every good opportunity that may arise. I had no way of knowing just how soon I would have to keep this promise.
Then, came the email. It was from Red Sox Foundation director, Rico Mochizuki, telling me I was the recipient for the Red Sox Foundation scholarship at my high school. Along with the scholarship money, I would receive two complimentary tickets to a Red Sox Game on New Hampshire day. I was ecstatic. I had spent hours on that application and it had paid off. Then, I thought back to the promise I had made to myself. Without too much thought, I knew what I had to do. I composed an email back to Rico to say thank you for the scholarship, and I asked him if I could sing the national anthem at the game. Almost laughing at myself, I realized how crazy that seemed to be. This man would think I had a lot of nerve asking a question like that. Regardless, it was an opportunity I had to seize, so I pressed “send.”
After several more email exchanges with Rico, the Red Sox Entertainment Manager, Dan Lyons, contacted me. He asked me to send in an audition video of me singing the national anthem and told me that if I were chosen, I would be notified. I was shocked that I had actually gotten this far. This was my chance to back out. I knew there were millions of people out there more experienced and qualified than myself. I had never even sang the national anthem in front of a crowd before; what made me think I would be able to in front of a stadium with 37,000 people watching? Beginning to feel unsure, my dad encouraged me to send in the video. “Why don’t you just sing it through and we’ll see how it goes,” he said to me. He set up his camera, I sang the song, and just like that, I sent it to Dan.
The very next day, an email popped up on my phone from Dan Lyons. I was sitting in the doctor’s office when I opened it. My heart stopped and my body froze. I reread it again, and then again. I couldn’t believe it, they wanted me to sing it! I would be singing the national anthem at Fenway Park! Tears filled my eyes. I began laughing and sobbing. I called my parents saying, “I did it! I actually did it!” I excitedly shared the news with the nurse, doctor, receptionists, and anyone that would listen.
The news spread throughout the area that I would be singing the national anthem at Fenway Park. People that I barely knew were congratulating me and encouraging me. The next few weeks I sang every single day. I sang the national anthem in the shower, in my car on the way to school, for my family, and friends. The day came closer and closer, until it was here.
June 14, 2015 I woke up, put on my favorite white dress, and got in the car with my dad, headed for Boston. Upon arriving at Fenway Park, we met Dan Lyons, the man who made this dream a reality. He led us through the dim underground tunnels toward the stadium, explaining the logistics on the way. “I’ll have you do a soundcheck so you can get used to the echo of your voice,” he told me. We then stepped out into the light of the stadium. I stood there in awe, gaping at the thousands of seats that would soon be full. The bright sun shined down on a crew of men that were working to prepare the field for the game. I took a deep breath and smiled, as the smell of fresh cut grass filled the air. Large screens and billboards lined the perimeter of the stadium and home plate sat there in front of me.
Several hours after my soundcheck, it was time for the big moment. All day I had been trying as hard as possible to keep my composure. I wouldn’t let myself think one single negative thought. “I got this,” I continued to repeat to myself, with a smile on my face. I stood on the sidelines, as the final notes of the Canadian national anthem were sung, and then it was my turn. Stepping out onto the grass right behind home plate, I turned towards the microphone and faced the 37,000 people before me. Knowing I would never get to experience this moment again, I paused before I sang to take it all in. As the man over the loudspeaker announced my name, I noticed the way the sun was shining, the way my heart was beating, the way the crowd watched eagerly to hear me sing our national anthem, and then to see the Red Sox play.
The man behind the camera gave me a nod as my cue. I took one last deep breath and began, “Oh say can you see…” Thousands of hands raised up to hearts as my voice echoed through the stands. Every note came out just how I had rehearsed it over and over. The defining moment, the moment everything came together for me, was towards the end of the song when I sang, “the land of the free..” Hanging onto the last note, the audience erupted. A smile a mile wide spread across my face as I sang the last few words “and the home of the brave.” I stood there a moment longer, taking in the rush of 37,000 people cheering for me. Overwhelmed in the most wonderful way, I waved to the audience and stepped off of the green. Tears welled up as Dan Lyons, shook my hand and congratulated me. I walked back into the stands feeling incredible. I couldn’t believe I had done it. Me, a shy girl from a small town… I sang the national anthem at Fenway Park; and it was all because I had the nerve to speak up and ask.
The rest of the time at Fenway, people were recognizing me in the stands and congratulating me. I was on cloud nine, feeling like a celebrity who just got their big break. Riding home in the car that afternoon, I reflected on the promise I had made to myself, and what it had done for me. I saw an opportunity and instead of saying, “I would never be able to do that, they would never choose me,” I gave it a shot. This experience has allowed me to have the confidence to try new things, even if it seems scary or unlikely to happen. I’m less afraid to approach new people or new situations. That promise I made to myself to seize every good opportunity led me to singing at Fenway Park. So, it’s most definitely a motto I’m going to follow for the rest of my life.