Sarasota resident Erika Miller advocates for more live performances of the national anthem.
We can all hum the beginning notes of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Few things impress a stadium full of fans more than when a performer hits those final notes that celebrate the land of the free and the home of the brave — a reminder of what unites Americans regardless of day-to-day divides.
That’s why Sarasota resident Erika Miller wants to give the anthem every opportunity to be performed live.
Although many events and sports matches start with the playing or a instrumental recording of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Miller has discovered that few include someone singing the song live.
“The recording when it’s just the instrumental is a beautiful song, but it’s really the words that have the story about how the flag was still waving,” Miller said.
Miller, 23, has performed the national anthem more than 100 times in the last five years. The inspiration to do so came from a service project while she was a student and Bayshore High School in Bradenton. She was nominated as a student for the Golden Herald Awards in Bradenton, and her teacher suggested she perform the national anthem for the ceremony.
It dawned on her how strange it was that there wasn’t someone already booked to perform the national anthem for the award ceremony.
“Unfortunately, there’s no good reason to not have it performed,” Miller said. “In one way, there’s no negative to having someone sing. Sometimes they go ‘Well, we never thought of having someone sing it.’ When I do offer, they’re so happy.”
After her debut performing the national anthem, Miller was encouraged to reach out to more organizations and events to do the same. She performs for political events, clubs, and spring training games for both the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Whenever Miller performs for political or sports events, she gets the guest speaker or athletes to sign a book that she plans to auction off and donate the proceeds. She’s partnered with the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a Tampa- based organization that donates scholarships and grants to children of fallen and wounded special ops soldiers.
Miller is always surprised by the reaction of the audience.
“When I get off the field or get off the stage, they say, ‘Thank you so much. It’s so nice to hear it sung live,’” Miller said. “A lot of veterans express that they’re really happy that someone cares as much as I do.”
After performing at the Legends golf tournament in December, Miller received a commemorative coin from one of the Marines who sat at her table. He gave it to her because of her respect for the national anthem.
It’s a difficult song to perform for even experienced singers. Miller began singing when she was 4 and initially performed with a pitch pipe to start the song.
“I would say getting the first note is really important,” Miller said. “I’ve memorized the note that I start on, but the pitch pipe helped me in the beginning.”
Her preferred method to perform the anthem is a cappella because it lets the lyrics stand on their own.
“It’s so much more powerful,” Miller said. “You’re honoring the soldiers that fought. The words have the meaning not the instrumental.”