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The Oregonian: National anthem singers Madison Shanley, Kyra Smith relish electric atmosphere at Portland Timbers games
Author: Jamie Goldberg, The Oregonian
Posted: March 30, 2016

Read the original story on OregonLive. 


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Long-time national anthem singers Kyra Smith (left) and Madison Shanley have become regulars at Portland Timbers games. (Left: Courtesy of Kyra Smith/Right: Photo by Jamie Goldberg)

The crowd falls silent as Madison Shanley raises the microphone to her lips.

For a moment, her voice is the only thing that can be heard inside Providence Park as she belts out her rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. But as she continues to sing, the crowd of 21,144 joins in, lifting their scarves in unison at the end of each verse as if it were a rehearsed duet.

"It's electrifying," said Shanley, 21. "Every time I go out there and I hear the Timbers Army singing behind me and I look out and I see all those scarves going up and everybody standing with their hands over their hearts, I get goose bumps."

While many professional sports teams schedule different national anthem singers for each of their games, Shanley and fellow long-time national anthem singer Kyra Smith have become regular pieces of the pregame ceremony at Portland Timbers matches.

One of the two singers belts out the national anthem ahead of nearly every Timbers game, save for the first game of the year where the Timbers Army traditionally sings the anthem.

"It's a great atmosphere," said Smith, 23. "It's unique because all of the fans are singing with you and throwing up their scarves. It makes you feel proud to be singing the national anthem with fans that are supporting you. It brings everybody together."

Smith started singing the national anthem at Timbers games as a young child over a decade ago, long before the Timbers made the move to MLS in 2011. Shanley began singing at Timbers games in 2009 when she was a freshman in high school.

Both Shanley and Smith have sung the national anthem at plenty of different sporting events, but both said that there is something different about singing the anthem in front of the Timbers Army inside an intimate stadium like Providence Park.

"I remember the first time I sang at a Timbers game, I was really nervous because I had been told that the Timbers Army likes to sing along with the anthem singer," Shanley said. "But then I heard how powerful they were and it was like a feeling of support. It's always really awesome to be able to sing together and to experience that kind of intensity in the middle of the field."

Shanley, who started singing at the age of four, has always been passionate about music and hopes to pursue a career in the industry when she graduates from Portland State University in the spring. She appeared on American Idol in 2012, has performed with bands in Portland and has recorded her own music in hopes of one day producing her own album.

But singing the national anthem has been what has opened the most doors for Shanley.

Since singing at her first Timbers game, she has been invited to sing the national anthem for the Portland Trailblazers, the Portland Winterhawks and the Seattle Seahawks. She was even flown out to Florida to sing the national anthem at a NASCAR event.

"It has been unreal," Shanley said. "It was always a goal of mine to travel and to perform, but I never thought the anthem would be something that would open that door for me."

Smith began singing professionally at the age of eight and became a performing artist for Radio Disney at 10. She worked with Disney through high school and now continues to sing at charity events and jazz concerts in the Portland and Vancouver area. She too hopes to one day produce her own album.

She has also become particularly passionate about singing at major sporting events. Outside of singing the national anthem at Timbers games, she also regularly sings for the Winterhawks and Seahawks, among other teams.

"I am a huge sports fan," Smith said. "Getting to sing for them and getting to be involved with the crowd that way is amazing."

But despite all their different singing commitments, Smith and Shanley said that the Timbers hold a special place in their hearts.

Over the last decade, the two singers have grown up with the Timbers, belting out the national anthem, as the club has made the jump to MLS, earned its first berth to the MLS Cup playoffs and won the MLS Cup last December.

At this point, neither Shanley or Smith can remember just how many times they've stepped out onto the field at Providence Park. But they still relish each opportunity to sing in front of that crowd.

"Standing out on the field surrounded by all those fans, it gives you chills," Smith said. "Every time I step out onto the field, it's like I'm stepping out for the first time again."

-- Jamie Goldberg | jgoldberg@oregonian.com

503-853-3761 | @jamiebgoldberg