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Lancaster teen to sing national anthem at Sunday's Bills game

Anna Heerdt, a senior at St. Mary's High School in Lancaster, wasn't sure at first about what to think about the text she got from her dad last Monday.

"Do you want to do the Bills game?" he wrote.

"Do" the Bills game?

"Go to it or sing?" she asked.

"Sing," replied her dad, Phil Heerdt.

Heerdt, who has performed the "Star Spangled Banner" at athletic games since she was 13, including several Sabres games, had auditioned earlier this year to sing at The Ralph. She had been told that they would consider her for next year's games.

Now she has been selected to sing the national anthem before the Bills' game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday.

"I'm excited," the 17-year-old said in a phone interview. "Singing the anthem – I've probably sang it a hundred times. So it's not really nerves. It's such an honor. I'm not just singing for one person or one team. I'm representing everyone in the country."

Known for what she called her "belty voice" at school, Heerdt started singing the national anthem at junior Sabres games when her uncle was a coach and her cousin was a player. She then auditioned for the Buffalo Bisons in 2014, and now she's been singing at their games every summer. She also has been called on to sing the anthem at college games throughout the Buffalo area.

Two years ago, the Sabres reached out to her about auditioning for them. She started with smaller Sabres related events and now has performed at Sabres games where she sings both the U.S. and Canadian anthems.

This year, Heerdt's parents sent a video of her singing to the Bills in the hopes of getting her a chance to sing at New Era Stadium. She was selected as one of about 15 finalists.

"We went to the audition at the stadium," she said.

She loved being in the giant empty stadium but found the echo tough to handle.

"It was really difficult honestly. The delay was different from anywhere I sang before," she said. "It was just different, especially because there were no people. It was cool to be out there with no one there but I think it's because it's outside and such a big dome that everything just echoes. I didn't have ear plugs or anything but it was OK."

The Bills later emailed her father to say she would be considered for next year's season, which is why the Heerdt family was surprised about being asked to sing at this Sunday's game.

Heerdt won't be doing anything out of the ordinary to prepare for her Sunday.

But she will repeat a ritual she does with her dad anytime before singing the anthem for the public.

"I practice the words a million times," she said. "I act like I'm talking to him so people don't think I'm crazy."

Then, she will step out on the field and belt it out.

When she's done, as she always has, she'll give her father a high five.


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