Megan Riesz gets the Simon Cowell treatment

American idled! Reporter auditions to sing national anthem at Barclays

The Brooklyn Paper
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Any reporter worth her keyboard is willing to make a fool out of herself for a story.

So when I heard that the Barclays Center was holding public auditions for the chance to belt out the national anthem at a Nets playoff game, there was no way I could pass up the opportunity to throw my singing voice, such as it is, into the running.

I am by no means a singer or musician. The last time I really let my pipes soar was in a middle-school choir performance of “Colors of the Wind” and my cello-playing days are as distant a memory as my calluses.

But pride be damned. On Monday morning, I started to prepare for my afternoon tryout as any good American would — by printing out the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I know the words, more or less, but at sporting events I am usually scouring the aisles for a beer when our republic’s signature ditty is being sung and I figured I could stand to brush up.

I then scoured my closet for some patriotic garb and came up with a black leather jacket, because to me, there is nothing more American than shopping at Marshall’s.

Outside the Barclays Center, I found a long line of would-be Celine Dions waiting for their shot at the big time. I was certain that at least one or two of them would be even more abysmal vocalists than I, but after a few eagerly burst out in song for gathered television reporters, I realized this was less talent show and more “American Idol.” Cue clammy hands and those familiar middle-school butterflies.

I was grouped in with five other eager beavers — including a violinist, a tap dancer who was wheeling around a wooden hand-drum, and a young girl who, in an ominous turn, burst into tears and backed out at the last minute. We were led to a practice court inside the massive arena and instructed to sit in a line of plush chairs that offered a front-and-center view of our competition.

And it was as fierce as I had feared. From my seat, I watched a steady procession of Brooklynites hit notes that made me hang my head in shame. The table of judges was less impressed, cutting off top operatic talents mid-”banners yet wave” or, if they were lucky, “home of the brave,” each judge holding up one hand to mark the moment of her or his disapproval.

Before I knew what was happening, it was my turn to show them what I had to offer, which was nothing more than a box of mints and some gossip about Long Island College Hospital. I stepped up to the mic stand, lyrics in hand, and only made it as far as “broad stripes” when the judges began waving for me to halt my screeching. They used both hands and pulled no punches when it came to assessing my chances at stage stardom.

“Try an easier song next time — maybe ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb?’ ” said judge Petra Pope, marketing head for the Nets.

That smarted.

“Is this your first audition?” another judge asked.

Well, duh.

I hurried off the court with all the composure of an antelope that is about to be mauled.

But not all the reviews were so harsh. The tap dancer in my group, who turned out to be a producer of the annual Fort Greene Jazz Festival, said I could actually be an in-demand entertainer — with some practice.

“With some voice lessons, you could be smokin,’ ” composer Eric Frazier said.

So although I probably will not be belting out the opening number at a Nets game anytime soon, I might one day improve enough to make it through at least to “gallantly streaming.”

Watch out, world.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Context added.
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Reasonable discourse

Voice of the People says:
Hey Nathan, Kuntzman wouldn't let you say "CHUTTS-pah."

Try.... Chutzpah (HUT [to rhyme with "FOOT", but beginning with the guttural ch sound, as in loch]-spuh)
April 15, 2014, 3:23 pm
Nathan Tempey (Brooklyn Paper) says:
Good point. Unfortunately, videos are less easily corrected than articles, so my mistake will live on with Megan's embarrassing audition. Thanks for watching.
April 15, 2014, 3:27 pm
epiphany from ex-Brooklyn says:
Who cares?

What's really important is that you are a sub-standard reporter, neglecting in this article to address—as any high school journalism student would know to do—the questions of why? and when?

Why did you decide to sellout to corporate interests (Ratner's union busting and Barclay's bank rate manipulation) and audition? (You certainly got the where? right.)

And when did this lame-ass event take place?

And most importantly, why did the Brooklyn Paper even pick up this story when there are so many important issues to report—and so little space. Guess they are on the Ratner/Barclay bandwagon too—or at least the Rupert Murdoch (who owns the rag) bandwagon.
April 15, 2014, 11:29 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
Somebody should tell him how to pronounce chutzpah.
April 16, 2014, 1:26 am
Me from Bay Ridge says:
Ooops, didn't read the other comments before I "spoke." Sorry,Voice.
Epiphany -- it's a clever job posting.
April 16, 2014, 1:28 am
It Came from Outer Space says:
I sure hope their next incredible video is about the Iliad so we get to hear the strange human try to pronounce Achilles.
April 16, 2014, 8:57 am
Nathan Tempey (Brooklyn Paper) says:
In response to epiphany: A light-hearted article does not a bunch of shills make. I encourage you to read our recent Atlantic Yards coverage to see what I mean.

Here is a sampling:

As for the "when," it is in the article.

Thanks for reading.
April 16, 2014, 12:35 pm
It Came from Outer Space says:
What about how? How does an editor at a Brooklyn newspaper mispronounce chutzpah?
April 16, 2014, 6:47 pm
It Came from Outer Space says:
And also, how did the reporter make a fool of herself? She immediately revealed to the panel that she was a reporter, so they naturally, they cut short the stunt--not just because the reporter has a terrible voice and was off key, but because they knew it was a stunt. They didnt want to waste the time of those who actually wanted to audition.
April 16, 2014, 6:51 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I always thought that anyone who works for any media source wouldn't be eligible for this contest.
April 16, 2014, 7:02 pm

Comments closed.

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