Singing America's song one state at a time

'National Anthem Girl' brings performances to Baltimore

September 12, 2014|By Audrey A. Cockrum | The Baltimore Sun

As the Star-Spangled Spectacular, one of the largest events in Baltimore history, takes place across the city this weekend to commemorate the 200th birthday of our national anthem, Janine Stange will be celebrating her own musical milestone.

On Aug. 28, the New York native became the first person to perform the national anthem in all 50 states. As part of this weekend's festivities, Stange, also known as "National Anthem Girl," will perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" at events around the city.

She has performed at various events across the country — from small rodeos and college sporting games to NBA games and a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

Stange has two Baltimore performances scheduled for Saturday; she will sing prior to the Orioles vs. Yankees game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and also at the Bicentennial of Our National Anthem concert at Pier Six Pavilion. On Sunday, she'll perform as part of the Star-Spangled Spectacular festivities at Fort McHenry.

In an interview with The Sun, Stange said her journey began in 2012 with the aim of promoting patriotism and giving back to others. Here is an excerpt from the conversation:

What inspired this journey to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" in all 50 states?

I wanted to do something to promote patriotism and honor our nation's heroes. I was inspired to do this because I believe in the song, I believe in the lyrics and I believe in those who embody its meaning. I believe in its power to unite us for 90 seconds -- no matter who we voted for or what team we wanted to win. When we're singing that song, we are one. A year ago, I realized the anthem was turning 200 on Sept. 14 and that I needed to finish my quest by then. I was literally averaging five to six states per month — and sometimes more — just to make sure I was getting everything in.

What was your most memorable performance?

All of them have been memorable for different reasons. The most memorable moments for me are the times when I spot people in the crowd who clearly have served or clearly know the price of freedom. They are at attention, singing with all their hearts. That makes me feel like I'm doing my part. Once I sang for a holiday event for 5,000 veterans, and to hear their voices singing along with me was so memorable because I knew they weren't just singing words to a song they knew -- they were singing words to a song they'd lived.

What are some of the biggest take-aways for you from this experience of performing the national anthem all over the country?

There are two. One is that America is beautiful. The second is that Americans are beautiful. I've driven, flown, taken boats, walked, zip-lined throughout this country and there has not been a time when I wasn't in awe of how amazing this country is. I encourage people to travel as much as they can within this country.

At the end of each performance, you provide blank cards for attendees to write messages to deployed military and veterans. Why did you incorporate this element into your appearances?

I feel like what it does is it enhances the experience of gratitude; it links people's gratitude for our freedom to those who are serving or have served to protect it. It also encourages people to take an extra minute or two out of their day to say "thank you," and that can change someone's life.

I know you're originally from Long Island. Who are you rooting for in the Orioles vs. Yankees game this Saturday?

Well, by birth I'm a Yankees fan. There are no two ways about it. But, I'm excited and happy for both teams.

Are there any other Star-Spangled Spectacular events you want to attend or sights you want to check out while you're in Baltimore?

I would just love to take everything in. It's such a nostalgic moment in time. I am so extremely honored to sing those words that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write 200 years to the date and place. I've been to Baltimore a number of times, and it's a beautiful city. I'm most excited to visit Fort McHenry. It will be my first time there.

Your next goal is to invite major recording artists to join you in producing a record of the national anthem. Have any artists confirmed that they will join you?

I have not reached out to anyone yet, but after I finish the Sept. 14 event, I plan to reach out to every artist who would be interested in uniting for the purpose of recording the national anthem and making it a gift to those who have given so much — like a living tribute. To all major artists who love this country and those who keep us free, I'm ready to talk. Tweet me: @TheAnthemGirl.

Where will the proceeds from this recording go? Are there any specific organizations you like to work with?

Well, I am a non-profit. I want to make sure [donations] are handled with integrity so that they go to those who need them. My hope is to reach out to a family from every state — just like I have visited every state.

How did you feel during your final performance in Tennessee last month?

For all 50 states, no events were ever canceled or rained out. I never missed a flight. When arriving at the stadium, there was not a cloud in the sky. Then, as I stood on the sidelines, the clouds started to roll in and a quarter of the way through the anthem, I was singing in a downpour. Afterwards, someone wrote on my Facebook page that the rain was tears of joy from the people in heaven, and it made me cry because my mom passed away three years ago, and I feel like knowing her, she probably asked God to make it rain so that I knew she knew that I'd finished.

For more information about Janine Stange or to donate, go to http://www.nationalanthemgirl.org; http://www.facebook.com/nationalanthemgirl; or http://www.twitter.com/TheAnthemGirl

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