Ross girl sings national anthem at Pirates game

| Friday, July 5, 2013, 12:45 p.m.

Little Jane Fusco used her “big Broadway voice” to salute her country before the Pirates vs. Phillies game on Wednesday.

Every inch of her 4-foot, 8-inch frame tingled as the 11-year-old faced the 33,197 announced-attendance crowd standing for the national anthem.

“I was nervous at the beginning,” said Jane, the daughter of Cindy and John Fusco of Ross Township, “but when I got to ‘the rocket's red glare,' the crowd cheered, and that gave me more power.”

But the Buccos' fans weren't done yet.

“When I sang ‘was still there,' they cheered really big then.”

Someone from the Pirates organization told her crowds usually don't cheer in the middle of the song. At the end of the anthem, they cheered again.

The young vocalist had plenty of time to practice since December's “Oh Say Can You Sing” competition held during PirateFest at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

“We thought I wouldn't get very far,” Jane said. “I was up against grown-ups with very powerful voices.”

When she was named among the four winners in her session, she and her parents all were surprised.

“I thought ‘What just happened?'” she said, as they stood in stunned silence. “My parents and I didn't talk for awhile.”

All four winners had received perfect scores and the opportunity to sing before a hometown baseball crowd. Pirates Kent Tekulve, Michael McKenry and A.J. Burnett were the judges.

From hundreds of auditions, 30 vocalists were chosen to compete at PirateFest, said Chris Serkoch, director of special events for the Pirates organization and coordinator of the anthem events.

Serkoch also handles the many recordings vocalists send the team. More than 1,000 reach the Pirates during the season.

“I listen to several and then choose from the best,” Serkoch said, “but at PirateFest, the ‘Oh Say Can You Sing' contest is your best shot.”

Jane's years of classes with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Academy and participation in the North Star Kids performance troupe had done what they were supposed to: “They helped my stage presence and confidence.” The area's high school musicals also have given her inspiration.

Before the PNC Park performance, the rising sixth-grader at St. Teresa of Avila School in Ross practiced the song at least twice a day.

“I visualized myself standing there with everybody watching,” she said, intent on “using my nervous energy as power.”

She also got to practice with a microphone at the ballpark and heard her voice echoing all around. Jane took her time and focused, heeding her mother's advice: “Look at the flag, and think about what it means.”

The hourlong wait on the field on game day also helped quiet the butterflies. When the time came, she was more than eager to begin.

“I'd love to do it again,” she said. “I could do it over a million times and get that same rush of power and excitement.”

The 6-5 win for the hometown team was yet another highlight.

“I'm a big fan of the Pirates, and I'm grateful to them,” Jane said, “I'm just a normal, average girl, and this is changing my life a little bit.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

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