Last summer, the LA Kings held a contest across social media, looking for someone to sing the national anthem at one of their home games. The fan-voted winner was Stefanie DelMar of Carlsbad based cover band, Perfect Strangers Music. After Stefanie’s performance last week, I sat down with the band to get the behind the scenes scoop of the experience.
Maggie: What did you think about entering the contest?
Stefanie: I’ve been going to Kings’ games since I was a little kid, so this is something I’ve wanted to do since I was about eight. I figured I’d just give it a shot; no day but today, right?
Dustin: Stef’s got a powerful voice, I was all for her entering.
James: We’d just started singing together, but I knew she would absolutely annihilate the performance.
Maggie: How did you react when you found out you’d won?
Stefanie: It was kind of surreal, even when the day finally came, and I was doing sound check, I couldn’t believe it was really happening, that I was really singing at the Staples Center.
James: I was thrilled for Stef. I know this has been on her bucket list for a long time; it’s been cool to be part of her crew, helping her get prepared.
Dustin: I wasn’t surprised. I’ve known Stef for a long time; I knew she’d win.
Maggie: Take me behind the scenes, how did you get ready for the big day?
Stefanie: I’ve been preparing for this since I was a little girl, singing in front of a mirror. I took voice lessons a few years ago, so I felt pretty good going in, but I brought James on as my vocal coach just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
James: Stef was pretty set; she already knew how to avoid the two biggest mistakes people make when they perform the anthem: they forget the words, and they don’t know their starting notes. So I focused on breathing, phrasing, and tempo. We wanted to make sure her performance was special because of her skill and talent, not because she added flourishes.
Stefanie: Yeah, I’m not a Whitney Houston or a Pia Toscano, so I can’t do crazy runs and grace notes. It was really important for me to stand out in a new way.
Maggie: How did you spend the day leading up to the performance?
Stefanie: Mostly trying not to have a nervous breakdown.
James: Hey, there’s nothing wrong with nerves, as long as you get past them when it’s time to sing.
Stefanie: True. We made it into a big deal though, I had a lot of friends and family come to the game. We piled into a couple of cars and caravanned up from Oceanside. I practiced again in the car, and the girls who were with me did a great job keeping me relaxed.
Dustin: I just kept reminding her that she’s performed in front of people before and that this was no different. We had a group meet up at Tom’s Urban for food and drinks before the game. That helped Stef relax a bit.
Maggie: So you entered the contest in August, and then almost six months later, you were there, walking on to the ice at the Staples Center. What were you thinking about?
Stefanie: Well, my mind went blank. I had to focus harder than I ever have before. My biggest concern was not screwing up the lyrics. When I got to “the rockets’ red glare” I finally had a moment of “Stef, slow down and enjoy every second.” That’s when I really started to take it all in.
James: That’s when she took it to another level. Like every other performance of the Star-Spangled Banner at a sporting event, the crowd started clapping and cheering as she got closer to the end. But Stef changed up her tempo and let them know that she was in control of that room. I was so proud of her.
Dustin: She absolutely killed it. It was surreal for me; people kept stopping us to congratulate Stef, one guy even asked to have his picture taken with her.
Stefanie: That was awesome. I got so much support from everyone. I still kind of can’t believe that it happened!