What does the Houston Symphony have to do with the Final Four? More than you might think. A few weeks ago, Houston Symphony Chorus Manager Anna Diemer got a call from the Rice University Athletics Department. As co-sponsors of the Final Four, Rice University and the University of Houston are responsible for every detail of the tournament—including coordinating the singing of the national anthem.
This year the Final Four games will begin with the Star-Spangled Banner sung by student athletes from each of the four schools competing for the championship. The students were chosen based on both participation in college athletics and singing ability, and include Chevis Armstead from the University of Syracuse’s Men’s Track and Field team; Karlie Crispin from Villanova University’s Women’s Basketball team; Nico Melo from the University of North Carolina’s Men’s Soccer team; and Madison Ward from the University of Oklahoma’s Women’s Volleyball team.
The Rice Athletics Department needed someone to create an arrangement of the Star-Spangled Banner and coach the singers to get them ready to perform it together. They heard that the Houston Symphony’s Chorus Manager, Anna Diemer, would be just the person to do it. In addition to working as the Houston Symphony’s Chorus Manager, Anna also works as a vocal coach and recently appeared as a soprano soloist with the Houston Symphony in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. “I’m a huge basketball fan,” Anna told us, “so I was very excited when I got the call.”
Anna contacted the singers individually and created an a cappella arrangement of the national anthem tailored to their individual voices. Symbolically, each singer gets a solo before they all sing together in harmony. She then began coaching them individually over the internet using FaceTime in advance of their rehearsals together in Houston. “Coaching over the internet was challenging,” she said. “But it’s been a delight working with each of these talented students, and they are going to sound great.”
The quartet will perform the Star-Spangled Banner on Saturday, April 2 at 5:00 pm before the two Final Four games, and their performance will be broadcast live on national television on TBS.