MINNEAPOLIS - Americans sing about freedom and bravery in their national anthem. One act of bravery is simply standing before 40,000 people to sing it.
As intimidating as that may sound, several hundred people audition each year for the opportunity to sing the Star Spangled Banner at a Twins game.
"This would be a dream come true," said Mike Siebenaler before standing in front of a microphone and a three judge panel during Twinsfest. "I can't hit, I can't throw, I can't pitch, I can't field, so my best shot at being a part of a major leave baseball team is the national anthem," he said.
Glo Westerdahl, coordinator of Twins community relations, began the open auditions 15 years ago after taking stock of the singers taking the field and concluding, "Some of them were really not very good."
Singing national anthem at a Twins game is dream for hundreds.
Westerdahl, who has a patriotic streak as wide as center field, decided the Twins could do better. "I think when we do the national anthem it needs to be respectful to the country," she said.
Roughly 300 people auditioned at Twinsfest for approximately 40 open spots at 2013 home games. Some 200 other people mailed in their auditions on CD.
Twin cities musicians Cappy Breuer, Greg Sotebeer and Deb Schlager have served as volunteer screeners since the open auditions began.
"By the end of the weekend you're pretty much singing it all night in your head," laughed Sotebeer, who understands the Star Spangled Banner is no easy song to master. "One of the hardest songs probably ever written," said Breuer, "because the range is so dramatic."
The judges said they look for a combination of voice and presence. "I want to be drawn into what they're doing. I want to feel the emotion in their voice," said Breuer. Schlager added, "You've got to know they're confident enough to do it in front of 50,000 people."
Those who auditioned will be notified in early April of the judges' decision, either selected to sing, placed on a reserve list, or invited to try again next year.
With no guarantees, elementary school coworkers Lori Nelson, Teresa Agnes and Helen Hoyt drove five hours from Mayville, North Dakota to audition at Twinsfest. The trio has performed the anthem several times in the past at venues back home, but Hoyt admitted, "I think I ran the song over in my head 50 times while I slept last night."
Singing before a Twins game would fulfill a dream for many who auditioned, but to Leon Hauge there's always that hope of something more. "The big dream is there's a record executive sitting in the stands and they hear that thing - 'Hey we got to talk to this guy.'"
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)