Finalists dream of National Anthem gig

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Sing your heart out Queens!

Each year, the New York Mets holds their annual search to give a few lucky New York area singers the opportunity to perform the National Anthem at a home game. Six singers from Queens – Gabriela Cabezas, Jennifer Cheng, Kinnie Dye, Kima Polite, Adrian Starace, and Pia Toscano – moved on to the final round, held on Monday, March 15. Judging from their auditions, these singers hit the ball out of the park.

“I just came here and focused on trying to get picked to sing at a Mets game,” said Jamaica Estates native Cabezas, 17, a student at Frank Sinatra Performing Arts High School in Astoria. “I’ve always wanted to sing and open for a Mets game.”

Cabezas has sung the Ecuadorian national anthem at City Hall and Ave Maria at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but said Citi Field would be her largest venue. “Words can’t describe how I feel. I’m overjoyed and grateful.”

The first round of the search began on Monday, March 8 at Citi Field’s press conference room inside the First Base VIP entrance. Around 150 competitors of all ages showed up to audition and had 30 to 60 seconds to sing a song of their choice to the judges, who included Kevin Mambo, a star of the hit Broadway musical “Fela!”; Bob Slade, a 98.7 KISS-FM radio personality and Jason Schoenberger, a 2008 Anthem Search winner.

Only 32 singers moved on to the finals, where they had opportunity to sing in the stadium – their crisp voices resonating over the roar of airplane engines.

Born and raised in Rosedale, Polite, 21, said she didn’t feel daunted by the size of Citi Field because she has sung at the Sydney Tennis Centre in Australia and at the IZOD Center in New Jersey. But the experience so far has been unforgettable.

“It’s a great experience. It’s a dream come true,” said Polite, who teaches step dancing at her alma mater, Junior High School 231. “I hope I can make it into the top five who get to sing.”

According to the NY Mets, decisions will be made in the next few days by an internal group of people. The amount of singers chosen depends on the talent pool and therefore they have no set number. This fact gives Queens a lot of opportunities to have a representative from the home turf on more than one occasion.

Starace hopes that her home turf advantage and her lifelong allegiance to the Mets came through in her performance. The former ‘American Idol’ and ‘America’s Got Talent’ contestant said that she’s felt pressure before but this experience would be different.

“I’m actually very excited,” said Starace, 22, a resident of Rego Park. “There’s a lot of pressure to sing in front of 50,000 people.”