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National anthem bursts in air of the Delta Center

The women's restroom at the Delta Center never sounded so good - or so patriotic.

You could hear the music all the way out in the main concourse.No flushing or sloshing sounds, mind you, just the clear tight harmonies of the Dunroe Sisters enthusiastically finishing off with "O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave."

It was national anthem audition day at the home of the Utah Jazz, and "The Star-Spangled Banner" was getting a Karl Malone-type workout all over the building.

Stacy Adams of West Valley City stopped outside the restroom to listen, carrying a plastic bear filled with honey in one hand and a bottle of lemon juice in the other.

He was just one of more than 100 singers who came to compete for a chance to sing the national anthem at the beginning of Jazz home games.

"I've been sick for two weeks," he explained, "and I just found out about this a day and a half ago.

"I'm just a beginning singer, but I'm going to give it my best shot," Adams said.

And, by the way, he asked, "Is that (music) really coming from the bathroom?"

Good acoustics, he conceded.

No argument from the Dunroe Sisters, a winsome quartet from Sandy that emerged from the restroom a little embarrassed by all the attention.

The four sisters - Lori Olsen, Holly Hagen, Cindy Jones and Heidi Bunker - said they've sung the anthem at the Delta Center once and at the old Salt Palace on several occasions in their younger years.

But singing in the lavatory is one thing. Now it was time to step onto the court and face the music.

Teresa Prior, director of game operations for the Jazz, was busy courtside ushering the hopefuls through the auditions.

The competition was stiff, with some of the finest sets of vocal chords along the Wasatch Front competing for a limited number of performances.

"We probably will pick four or five people from today's auditions," said Prior.

That handful of names will be added to a small list of singers the Jazz front office calls upon each year to perform at 43 regular home games plus playoff contests.

Prior said the three audition judges were drawn from the Jazz office staff.

OK, so none of them graduated from the Julliard School of Music. "They go to all the games," Prior said. "And they know how it should sound in this arena."

Meantime, the 39 members of the Kaysville Junior High Choraliers were descending to the arena floor en masse for their shot at vocal glory.

"I have a phenomenal madrigal group here," said their director, Sheryl Woodfield, "and I just thought this would be fun."

Aubri Layton, an 11-year-old songbird from Murray, has just finished an impressive rendition of the anthem and was watching the competition.

"I was a little nervous a first," she admitted. "But then when I sang more, it got to be fun.

"It's harder to sing in front of this many people than it is 5,000 people," Aubri added. "I've only sung in front of judges two or three times in my life . . . and I just learned the national anthem a few months ago."

Down on the court, Eugene Nelson of Holladay picked up the microphone and looked over at the judges.

"Do I get to practice first?" he quipped, breaking the tension.

Nelson, who studies with a couple of prominent local vocal coaches, said this was the first time he had auditioned for the pre-game singing chore.

"It's the challenge," he said. "I'm a singer . . . and this is a chance to explore the power and energy" of America's most venerated song.

For 13-year-old Tammy Forbes, of Draper, a powerful young songstress who has sung the "Star Spangled Banner" at rodeos and Salt Lake Buzz games as well as women's sporting events at the University of Utah, the auditions were memorable.

"When I was down there, I was just thinking and hoping I could hit the high notes. And the low notes," she said. "It's a hard song to sing because it jumps from low to high."

Melissa Anderson, 1998 Miss Utah-USA, even turned out to try out.

"If you're tired of hearing our national anthem, I could sing the Uruguayan national anthem," offered Anderson, who served an LDS mission in Uruguay. "But it's not as pretty."

No takers on that one, so the BYU coed proceeded to belt out a version of the "Star Spangled Banner" that rocked the Delta Center rafters and left even the most critical listeners applauding by the time she was into the "home of the brave" section.

A little too powerful, perhaps, to rehearse in your average sports arena restroom.