This summer, many Western New York teens were scrambling to get tickets to the National Pro Football Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. But not 2009 Orchard Park graduate Jennifer Waris. She was in front of the crowd singing the national anthem at the start of the Aug. 9 game.
Waris won this gig after years of being the go-to singer for the Bills, Sabres and Bisons. She has sung at local events and competitions, including Amherst Teen Idol, and appeared in commercials for Holiday Valley, Wegmans and Rolls Royce. "It's very exciting. She's had so many wonderful people interested in her and so many opportunities that she's been afforded," said Jennifer's mother, Marie. "Whatever she decides to do, we'll support her. You don't know what the future is going to hold." NeXt recently spoke with Jennifer, who records at Bristol Studios in Boston, Mass., about her success so far, her plans and the Canton game.
>When did you realize you had a passion for singing?
Ever since a very young age, I've been performing in my school musicals, singing in competitions and contests. I started anthem singing at age 10. My first Buffalo Bills game, I auditioned for it. On the spot, they liked me, and scheduled me to do a game. Since then, it's kind of been word of mouth. I can't even count how many I've done, and it's something I've always loved doing.
>How did you feel when you were asked to sing at the Canton game?
I was absolutely thrilled. Everybody was really excited. My whole family and some of my friends came up, and made the long trip to the stadium.
>How did the Canton game compare to your other national anthem performances?
I normally don't get nervous for these types of things anymore. But before I sang, I got some butterflies, and I had to calm myself down. It was a pretty big deal, this game. I had a rehearsal a couple of hours before the game, and they had to make sure the timing was all right. It had to be exactly 85 seconds, on the dot, because they had the helicopter fly over at the end of the anthem. I love the Bills. I didn't meet anyone famous, but my dad and I had our eyes peeled. I walked past Ralph Wilson.
>What has it been like working in the studio and on commercials?
A couple of years ago, I began traveling to Boston to work with a music producer [at Bristol Studios]. I've been working with him, co-writing songs, and further developing as an artist. I love every second of it. It's kind of amazing how everything happened. It's been by word of mouth, a lot. I believe that the Holiday Valley commercial happened because I came in contact with the Holiday Valley man after I did a Buffalo Sabres game. He saw me sing, and he loved my voice.
>What has been a highlight of your career so far?
I honestly don't know if I can pinpoint one thing. I feel like every time that I'm in front of a crowd, it's a highlight.
>How do you feel about starting at the Berklee College of Music this fall?
While I'm studying at school, I'll actually be working across the street with the producer that I've been with. It's one of the reasons that I was looking at Boston to begin with. I think being at Berklee, and working with these music professionals, I'm really going to develop as an artist, and hopefully I'll become a stronger songwriter, singer, and I can't wait to see what happens next.
>What are your goals in terms of singing?
Someday, as I look ahead, I hope I'm signed with a record producer and making great records. I can't picture myself doing anything else. Right now, I'm working toward being a performer. I'm going to be studying vocal performance at Berklee. It's a long process, and things could change. But I feel like as long as what I'm doing involves music, I'll be happy.
Carlene Miller is a senior at Alden.