UIndy Choir to sing national anthem at Special Olympics opening ceremony

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The University of Indianapolis choir will be taking the stage to sing the national anthem at the Opening Ceremony for the Special Olympics State Youth Basketball tournament on March 26. The Concert Choir and Schola Mixed Ensemble Choir will be joining forces for the event, Director of Choral Activities Webb Parker said. The choir’s involvement with the event is a result of the program wanting to be more involved with campus life, he said.

“I had gotten that word out to several folks on campus,” Parker said. “I believe it was [Director of the Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement] Marianna Foulkrod’s office of, . . . the Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement. I had let her office know that we would like to participate in any campus event that would have us. And so she passed that information along to Jennifer VanSickle, who is heading up the event and so she extended the invite to us to come and perform the national anthem.”

Photo by Justus O’Neil UIndy Choir members rehearse the Star-Spangled Banner. The choir is slated to perform at the Special Olympics Indiana Youth Basketball tournament on Saturday, March 24.

Sports Management Professor Jennifer VanSickle is teaching the class that has been planning the basketball tournament and said that the university has been collaborating with Special Olympics Indiana to host the tournament since 2010. She said a student suggested a few years ago that they should try to have someone sing the national anthem and helped secure the event for the UIndy Choirs by reaching out to different departments. VanSickle said this collaboration also allows students to interact with the athletes at the tournament.

“One of the things that’s the goal of this tournament and bringing it on campus is just to have an opportunity for that interaction . . . . They love it,” VanSickle said. “The athletes love it in terms of getting to meet, hang around college students. And what we’ve found in the past is [that] the UIndy students love the interactions with their athletes too. And so to have the choir there is something really, really special; we try to make the Opening Ceremonies a very special event, and having a professional choir come and sing will just make that opening ceremony more special than it’s ever been.”

The choir’s involvement with this event is important because not only have they been trying to be more involved on campus, but Parker said these athletes deserve time and attention from campus groups that are a part of the event.

“The other reason it’s special and it’s important is because these athletes, this is something that is part of the fabric of who we are sort of as a nation, that this is what we do: we sing the national anthem before sporting events,” Parker said. “I think these athletes deserve that, and they deserve the best national anthem that we can put before them. I think it’s awesome that because there’s a group on campus that can do that thing, that you’re invited to do that.”

To prepare for the opening ceremony, Parker said the choir will be using the national anthem arrangement from when they sang it at the Homecoming football game on Oct. 9, 2021. This will make it easier for the choir to perfect the song in time for the event.

“Most of the preparations went in last semester when we were learning the piece and . . . I will present the piece to the choirs on Monday (Feb. 28), actually starting in March, and so on Monday will be the choir’s first rehearsal this semester on it,” Parker said. “But that’s because . . . choir’s a one-year commitment, so you’re expected to take choir both semesters. And so I think we only have three or four new singers to us for the spring. Most all of these singers already know this arrangement. Basically, we’ll just knock the dust off of it and polish it back up to a performance level.”

While Parker said the choir sees the invitation to perform as a huge honor, VanSickle said those involved with the Special Olympics are just as excited to have the choir be a part of it. She said she would love to see the choir interact with the athletes just as much as other students contributing to the tournament.

“We’re excited to have them there,” VanSickle said. “Again, I think the athletes and those at the tournament that day will be wowed by their performance . . . . There’s probably going to be some athletes there that like to sing, and I’m hoping that the athletes will feel comfortable and the choir members will feel comfortable talking with each other after it’s over and get the opportunity to interact. I’m also hoping that this is just the start of having the choir there many more years, every year.”

Photo Gallery by Justus O’Neil

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