Anna Heerdt, a senior at St. Mary’s High School, sang both the Canadian and American national anthems at the Bills game on Sunday
For Anna, known to some as "Anthem Girl," singing the "Star Spangled Banner" is something she had become extremely familiar with. But when she stepped onto field at New Era Field on Sunday, a different kind of excitement filled her as she began to sing.
"It was just overwhelmingly amazing ... mixed with the fly over, the fireworks and the crowd, it all contributed to the experience and made it that much more honorable," Anna said.
For her, singing at the game came as a surprise. Her parents had submitted a video of her singing to the stadium’s anthem coordinator without her knowledge. She finally became aware of it when the coordinator called her to sing at the stadium with the other top 14 candidates.
After that audition, they told her to try again next season, which was why she was so excited when they called and gave her the opportunity to sing at Sunday’s game.
Anna’s singing career began well before she started singing the anthem, though.
She has been performing in musicals since the third grade, starting with school productions and then moving on to doing shows at the Lancaster Opera House when she was in sixth grade. She also has performed with In Good Company Productions since she was 12.
Anna said that her stage experience helped her when auditioning to sing the anthem.
"It’s like I wasn’t just another singer, I was more confident, I could perform it," she said.
The first time she sang the anthem for a sports crowd was at a junior Sabres game. She then went on to audition to sing it at the Bisons games.
"There had to have been hundreds of people auditioning ... none of us expected me to get that," she admitted.
She has now been singing for them for two years.
"She’s a staple there now," said Anna’s mother, Erin Heerdt.
It also led to a private audition with the Sabres. She has been singing at Sabres games for the past two seasons, as well.
"It all kinda happened at once, every time you turned, more came out of this." said Anna’s mother.
When asked if she has anything specific she does before a performance she says she always practices in the car on the ride there and she has a special bracelet she wears at every Sabres game.
Anna has been taking voice lessons for six years, and her teacher, Karen Janiszewski, was very excited to hear her sing at the Bills game. She said she gets even more nervous than Anna does.
"Even so, I still get chills," said Janiszewski. "How could you not shiver during the climactic points of the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ especially when sung with the sheer intensity of Anna’s interpretation?"
She also said that seeing a longtime student like Anna have an opportunity like this filled her with pride.
"Not many solo musicians get an audience that fills a stadium like New Era Field, and I hope that her next largest audience is an audience of millions."
There is a possibility that Anna will sing at some upcoming Niagara University games and she is scheduled to perform at the Sabre’s game on Dec. 22.
Emily Weber is a senior at Lancaster High School.