Last Sunday prior to the Bengals-Browns game, Dana of the Ben-Gals performed the Star-Spangled Banner, which was especially important as the NFL was honoring US veterans in stadia across the nation. Dana has a BFA in theatre and dance from the University of Miami (FL), and is an Outreach Consultant for a higher education software company. The talented fourth year Ben-Gal is an experienced singer, including winning a ten-week long singing contest sponsored by a local casino which gave her the opportunity to sing regularly at the casino.
Dana was kind enough to share with UltimateCheerleaders some of her feelings before, during, and after her performance last Sunday:
UC.com: How many times have you sung the Star Spangled Banner before? Ever before such a large crowd?
Dana: I sang the Star Spangled Banner in high school, and played it a million times in band (yes, I’m a band geek!), but never before a crowd as big as this one! I do sing regularly at Hollywood Casino, so I’m used to singing in front of crowds, but this is definitely the biggest crowd yet!
UC.com: Is it a challenging song to sing? How did you prepare for your performance at Paul Brown Stadium?
Dana: It can definitely be a challenging song to sing, but if you find the right key for you it can make it a lot easier. I practiced at home and in the car as much as I could, but I also met with my vocal coach a few times to make sure it was as perfect as it could be!
UC.com: Were you nervous at all pre-game?
Dana: I went between being nervous and excited for the entire week before the game. I think what kept me calm was the fact that we are out on the field all the time during practices and games, so it just felt like another day out there. Once you are down on the field, you feel kind of separated from the crowd, so it was easy to go into my own little bubble. I did not perform in the pre-game routine with the other ‘Gals because I would have been winded for the anthem, but while they were performing the nerves kicked in a little bit, however, once I stepped in front of the mike, somehow the stress melted away and I felt really at ease. It also helped that I had my fellow Ben-Gals in my sight line while performing; it is weird being out on the field without them! We are sort of like a security blanket for each other!
UC.com: Was it challenging to sing in November weather?
Dana: It was not challenging to perform in the weather. We were really lucky that the rain decided to go away for the first half of the game (the same cannot be said for the second half…). When I did my sound check at 10:30 in the morning it was drizzling, so we were debating whether or not we would use an umbrella, if necessary. Thankfully, the rain held off and the temperature was fairly comfortable by 1:00, so there really were no issues at all!
UC.com: How can you prepare for the acoustics of a big stadium, and the echo?
Dana: Oh, the dreaded echo! This was what had me the most nervous leading up to Sunday. I knew about the echo; there is about a one to two second delay between what you say and what the crowd hears. It definitely posed a challenge. Have you heard of that new app called Speech Jammer? It’s a lot like that! I practiced several times with the radio blaring to try to get myself to focus on my own lyrics as opposed to what was going on around me. I learned ahead of time that they do not have any type of monitor on the field, so I decided to bring earplugs. I forgot to bring the earplugs out to the sound check and ended up having to hold my ears closed so that I could ensure I was hearing myself correctly and staying on pitch. The earplugs did help when I sung it at game time, so I definitely recommend that to anyone who may sing the anthem in a stadium in the future!
UC.com: How did it feel to hear the cheers at the end?
Dana: Every time I hear the national anthem, I get excited when the crowd gets into it and starts cheering. In the moment that I was singing it, I was kind of ‘in-the-zone’ because I didn’t want to mess up, but when I finally got to the big note at the end and realized that the crowd was cheering, it really fired me up! I think that the lyrics and the song, itself are so inspiring that it tends to fire everyone up on its own, but to be the lucky one who gets to sing it is a feeling that is indescribable! On top of everything else, this was our military game, so it was such a huge honor to be the one that got to sing our national anthem during the game which honored those who fight for our freedom.
UC.com: Which family and friends were at the game?
Dana: I had a lot of family and friends at the game: my husband, my parents, step-parents, in-laws, several of my sisters, my brother-in-law, an uncle, and friends of the family were there, along with other friends who happened to be in the crowd that day. I was allowed to bring four people down on the field with me, so I brought my dad, since he is the one who always watched Bengals games growing up and turned me into the huge fan that I am today (plus it was his birthday!), my older sister, who is also a huge Bengals fan and loves football, my husband, who has supported me the entire time I have been on the squad and who comes to every game to see me, and my father-in-law, who has taken me in as part of the family since day one, and who also happens to be an Air Force Veteran. It was an honor to have him down on the field for the military game!
UC.com: If you were going to start a Ben-Gal singing group, which of your Ben-Gals sisters also are talented vocalists?
Dana: If I were to start a Ben-Gals singing group, I’d definitely have Maria B. singing with me; she is amazing! I’d also have Jessica and Katie as my backup singers/dancers; they always sing and goof around, so I have joked many times that they need to be my backup singers for the anthem! I’m sure there are other talented singers on the squad, so maybe we need to have another karaoke night to figure out who they are!
Click on the image below to hear Dana’s absolutely amazing rendition of our National Anthem! Her family, friends, and Ben-Gal sisters must have been so proud upon hearing such a powerful performance. Thanks Dana for sharing your thoughts about such a wonderful moment on a grand stage!