Musicians try to earn a chance to perform the national anthem at a Utah Jazz game

Nearly 80 musicians auditioned at the Delta Center for a chance to sing or play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ (or ‘O Canada’) at an upcoming home game.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brayden Crawford and Husten Morris perform for the judges, singing and signing, during the Utah Jazz national anthem tryouts at the Delta Center, on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023.

What does it take to sing the national anthem before a Utah Jazz home game?

Nearly 80 hopefuls filed into the starkly quiet Delta Center on Tuesday, seeking to answer that question — and to be chosen to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before one of the Jazz’s 40-plus regular-season games this season.

“Just remember, we’re not just looking for people who can sing,” Payden Adams, one of the judges and the Jazz’s vice president of entertainment, production and game presentation, told those auditioning. “We’re looking for individuals who can connect with the lyrics and really have a knack for drawing in 18,000 people.”

The musicians were also encouraged to let the judges know if they knew the words to “O Canada,” the Canadian national anthem, and a few people did. (Someone will be asked to perform it on Dec. 23, when the NBA’s only Canadian team, the Toronto Raptors, comes to town.)

The auditioners each walked down a black carpet and came up to a microphone stationed at center court, while the arena’s digital screens played an image of an American flag waving. They performed for four judges, all from the Jazz organization: Adams, director of entertainment Meikle Lahue, vice president of basketball communications Madeline Wehle Crandall and vice president of family relations and basketball operations Whitli Goddenridge.

“It’s kind of intimidating. So definitely props to all these people that come out and put themselves out there,” LaHue said. “We just take notes, and look for powerful confident voices that we feel like we’ll fill the arena.”

Tuesday’s musicians represented a wide range of ages, with many young children auditioning. Some were soft singers, others delivered powerhouse vocals. A few let their nerves shake their voices, but all clapped for each other after each audition.

Some got creative, like performer No. 11, a young man who introduced himself as Jace — who didn’t sing the song, but played it on an electric guitar. Husten Morris and Brayden Crawford, a duo who were No. 46 in the queue, sang the song and performed it in sign language, while wearing Jordan Clarkson replica jerseys. No. 50, Scott Dalton, wore a kilt and played both anthems, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “O Canada,” on a Celtic whistle.

The Jazz will host 40 regular-season games at the Delta Center, plus one of the team’s four preseason games. The team may get a 41st regular-season home game, depending on how they fare in the NBA’s new in-season tournament in early December.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Contestant #21, Lindsay Romney, performs for the judges during the Utah Jazz national anthem tryouts at the Delta Center, on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023.

LaHue said, “It’s one of those moments that at the beginning of every game, no matter what team you’re cheering for, you can all rally behind the singing of our national anthem, and it unifies everybody. It just sets a powerful tone for the whole evening.”

This year’s auditions were largely done in person, with online submissions also accepted, LaHue said. Last year, all auditions were done through video submissions.

Only a handful of those auditioning were allowed to perform the anthem in its entirety. Many were cut short, but LaHue reassured the performers that this wasn’t an indication of whether they were good or not — but simply the judges trying to stay on schedule.

Musicians who are chosen on game nights are not paid, but are given four tickets to the game at which they will perform. LaHue said the team would contact the chosen musicians in September or October.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brayden Crawford and Husten Morris perform for the judges, during the Jazz National Anthem try outs, at the Delta Center, on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023.