Singing a Dream: NASCAR fan makes semi-finals in Richmond's national anthem contest

Suzy DiCicco performs "Down in the River to Pray"
during her tryout at Short Pump Town Center
in Richmond, Va., last month.
(Photo courtesy of Suzy DiCicco)
When Charlotte, N.C., resident Suzy DiCicco learned about a contest to sing the national anthem at Richmond International Raceway, the avid NASCAR fan was in.

"I wanted to try out because I am a vocalist and music teacher, and I have heard some ... questionable ... anthems," DiCicco said with a laugh.

This summer Richmond International Raceway held its first national anthem contest, allowing the public to submit entries or attend tryouts to win the opportunity to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before Friday night's Nationwide race. The track received 100 entries from individuals eager to perform at the famous short track.

DiCicco, a preschool teacher, made it to the semi-finals, but it will be 22-year-old Ryan Corbin of Glen Allen, Va., a suburb of Richmond, who will sing the anthem before the Virginia 529 College Savings 250. DiCicco took the time to speak with Skirts and Scuffs about her tryout experience.

Living in the heart of NASCAR country, DiCicco has been a racing fan since 2007 and counts Tony Stewart, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray among her favorite drivers. She interacts with fellow NASCAR fans on Twitter, including yours truly, and it was on the social networking site that she became aware of Richmond’s national anthem contest.

DiCicco saw a link about the contest I had posted on my Twitter feed. With her background in singing, DiCicco decided to find out more about the opportunity.

“I have been singing my whole life,” she said. “My first church solo was in third grade. I was in a touring youth choir in junior high and senior high, as well as the chamber/show choir at my high school. I studied music in college, and I've sung in weddings and funerals. The most fun I've ever had was performing in community theater. And, of course, I sing with my students!”

The track was accepting submissions through e-mail, CDs via mail and open auditions at Richmond’s Short Pump Town Center. DiCicco submitted an attachment of herself performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” through e-mail.

“I had originally made the recording to send to local sports teams, so I already had it,” she said.

DiCicco was chosen to become a semi-finalist based on her entry. From there, she went to the Short Pump Town Center in August to compete in an “American Idol”-style competition.

“I was the last of 15 contestants for that weekend (there had been another group of semi-finalists the previous weekend), and I performed ‘Down in the River to Pray,’ a Gospel song, from the ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’ soundtrack as recorded by Allison Krauss,” DiCicco said.

Watch DiCicco's audition here.

“I was given comments by the judges, and then all the contestants were lined up while the judges conferred. The finalists were then called forward; five were chosen from each semi-final weekend. I did not make the final round.” DiCicco said Ryan Corbin, the eventual winner, was not from her group.

DiCicco said the contestants received comments from the judges, similar to “American Idol,” but there was no audience voting.

“The five judges made the choices. And none of the judges were as harsh as Simon Cowell, or cried like Paula Abdul!” DiCicco said with another laugh.

Though she didn’t win, DiCicco was grateful for her participation in the contest. The opportunity allowed her to take a road trip with her 12-year-old daughter and meet up with friends residing in Richmond, who came out to see her audition. DiCicco has never attended a race at the short track itself, but hopes to in the future, perhaps with her friends.

The experience was also a deeply personal one for DiCicco, strengthening her faith.

“The biggest thing I took away was growth in my trust of God. I prayed that when I went to sing, that I would focus on God, because He gave me this voice, the opportunity to train, and the opportunity to participate in the contest. I sang a Gospel song, and I hope that someone at that mall was inspired to think about God for him or herself,” she said.

“This was different. I could have made it all about me, but I knew that would be a mistake. Without my focus on God, and not myself, I'd have been so nervous I don't think I could have done it.”

If another track were to hold a national anthem contest, would DiCicco try out for it? The answer was a resounding yes.

“If any track is close enough for me to drive to so that I can audition, I'm there!” she said.

Keep an ear out for DiCicco. She may be coming to a track near you!
Singing a Dream: NASCAR fan makes semi-finals in Richmond's national anthem contest Singing a Dream: NASCAR fan makes semi-finals in Richmond's national anthem contest Reviewed by Rebecca Kivak on Friday, September 10, 2010 Rating: 5