Oh, say can you sing?

Words, range and nerves make national anthem a difficult song


Caroline Cole singing the national anthem in the Stratford press box at the FPD game on Oct. 13, 2017

The national anthem may seem like an easy song to sing. But it actually is one of the most difficult. 

The national anthem ranges from a B-flat, below middle C, to a high F. This is an octave and a half range. That range isn’t difficult for people who train and practice. For the average person,  it would be hard to just randomly sing. The nerves, the range, and the words in general make it tough. The words seem to become mashed together. 

The first time I sang the Star-Spangled Banner,  I was a basket case. It was my ninth-grade year. My father, Jim Cole, is the athletic director at Mercer. He signed me up to sing at a Mercer women’s basketball game. I had practiced and practiced, but it seemed like I was never going to get over the nerves.

There was hardly anyone there at the game. But that made me even more nervous. I had never performed a solo in front of a bunch of people I did not know.  

Although I had sang at my church, Forsyth United Methodist, since I was 8 years old, that was different. I knew all those people.  

I walked out on the court holding the microphone.  I heard my introduction. “Please welcome Caroline Cole to sing the nationalvanthem today.  Caroline is the daughter of Jim and Gaylyn Cole. She is a freshman at Stratford Academy here in Macon, Georgia.”

It was finally my time to shine.  I turned toward the flag, and I began to sing.  The words flew out of my mouth. Before I knew it, the national anthem was over and applause filled the arena.  

A couple weeks later, Mrs. Sylvia Haynie approached me about singing at a Stratford basketball game.  After this, it became a normal routine for me. I sang at multiple basketball games my freshman year, My sophomore year  brought more and more opportunities to sing.

The first Stratford football game I sang at brought a huge challenge I was not expecting.  There is two-second echo from the speakers to the press box.

As I was singing “the bombs bursting in air” the “rockets red glare” was coming through the speakers.

My junior year brought some added pressure. And it wasn’t because it was Friday the 13th.

Pullquote Photo

The first time I sang the Star-Spangled Banner,  I was a basket case. … I had practiced and practiced, but it seemed like I was never going to get over the nerves.”

— Caroline Cole

I was asked to sing on Oct. 13, 2017,  It was an important day in Stratford Academy football, and in my life.  I was so nervous about singing the National Anthem at the FPD vs. Stratford game. The stadium was packed.  I started school at First Presbyterian and was a student there until the third grade, when I transferred to Stratford.  

The nerves disappeared as I was walking up the steps to the press box.  I had rehearsed the words over and over throughout the day. I patiently waited for my introduction, and I was handed the microphone.  I began to sing, and ignored the the two-second lag of the speaker.

The words rolled off my tongue, and I felt as if I was standing in my voice teacher’s room rehearsing with her.  Being a cheerleader, I had to quickly run down to the field to run the flag in front of the team.

As a senior, this will be my last year singing the National Anthem, and quickly running to the field.  It’s going to be a bittersweet last time, but I can’t wait to see where singing will take me in life.  

I’m so glad that many years ago I was asked to sing the national anthem because it has taught me so much, and I have made so many memories from it. You never know where you might be, or when you might need to know how to sing one of the greatest songs ever.  

Just look at Lauren Daigle, who sang the national anthem at a Braves game  this year with no preparation.  She was asked to sing after the singer who was supposed to be there failed to show up.

Singing is special to me, and I hope that I am able to bless other people with my own singing, whether it is the national anthem or another song.