KJZZ is a service of Rio Salado College, and Maricopa Community Colleges
Privacy Policy | FCC Public File | Contest Rules
Copyright © 2024 KJZZ/Rio Salado College/MCCCD
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What Does It Take To Sing The National Anthem?

Think you’ve got what it takes to sing the national anthem at a Phoenix Suns game?

Well then, it’s time to step up to the mic and belt it out.

KJZZ’s Phil Latzman took the challenge - and fell flat - in the Valley’s version of America’s Got Talent.

If this were one of those ubiquitous television talent competitions, Kip Helt would be the chief judge. Helt is the vice president of game entertainment for the Phoenix Suns, a job he’s had for more than 15 years.

“Basically, three things that I always look at it. One is singing in tune. Two is knowing the words, and we like you to be able to execute the song and sing it in 90 seconds or less," he said.

He’s seen thousands of of hopeful performers and said you never know who might show up, including future stars.

“I’ll never forget a young lady by the name of Jordin Sparks coming in to audition one year. And she still sings for us, but her first time singing for us was when she was 11 years old.”

Helt watches and listens as about a hundred people showed up on Monday to perform (and some of them to mangle) the Star Spangled Banner in the lobby of the U.S. Airways Center. The coveted gig doesn’t pay, but the anthem performer has an important job to fire up the crowd right before tip off.

Summer Welsh, 14, was one of the hopefuls.

“It’ll be a great opportunity to sing in front of a lot of people, especially at a Suns game, so I thought i would be cool to try out,” Welsh said.

Cameron Gooch, 13, capably handled the tenor sax. "There’s a lot of vocalists these days, so why not try the instrument?” Gooch said.

But when it comes to vocalists, few are as experienced, or talented as Kevin Gallagher, who belts out a booming baritone. Gallagher is a former high school music teacher and admitted, he’s been at this for quite some time.

 “I started with the Suns when they were at the Madhouse on McDowell at the State Fairgrounds at the Coliseum, then moved over here when America West Arena was built,” he said.

That was back in 1992. So, with a voice from the heavens why hasn’t Gallagher, 51, tried out for one of those TV talent shows? Well, as it turns out, he has.

“American Idol has an age limit, and I’m a little bit over that age limit. I like The Voice, and I went out and auditioned with them this past summer,” he said.

When asked how he fared, Gallagher mentioned that at the request of The Voice’s producer, he’s not able to say.

So, stay tuned. And try to stay ‘in tune’.

Phil Latzman is an award-winning digital journalist and broadcast professional with over 25 years of experience covering news and sports on a multitude of platforms.