Imagine how you would feel if you were in this situation: You are seated in the rodeo arena at the 2008 National Western Stock Show.
The rodeo hasn’t started yet.
The huge vast hall is dark following opening ceremonies that included a stunning laser light show and presentation of the American Flag by illuminated riders on horseback. The thousands of people seated in the huge arena have fallen silent.
Suddenly, a powerful spotlight illuminates a young girl standing alone on the arena floor. She begins singing the national anthem in a beautiful, well-trained, a cappella voice, holding key, hitting every note.
She knows those words as well as her own name, and she sings them with confidence rising in her voice.
Everyone in the arena is standing. They remove hats and put hands over their hearts. Some sing along.
When she finishes singing, the thousands of people applaud and cheer.
Now, imagine what you would feel if the girl performing alone in the spotlight of that huge arena area was your own 13-year-old daughter.
That is what Dave and Edie Burgess of Eckert experienced this year at the National Western Stock Show Pro Rodeo when their daughter Anastasia sang our country’s national anthem at an event-opening ceremony.
Anastasia’s parents say the feelings they experience before and during their daughter’s performances range, understandably, from great nervousness to great pride. “But right now,” says Edie, “we are just trying to have fun with it as a family.”
Anastasia Burgess, a home-schooled eighth grader, is making a name for herself performing the national anthem at events around our region and the state.
Anastasia explains that her singing career began at a very early age. “I was four years old the first time I asked my mom if I could sing the national anthem. It was at one of my brothers’ little league baseball games, and they played a recording from the balcony of the concession stand.”
There is no recorded music these days as Anastasia gives her patriotic national anthem performances a cappella. She has studied voice for about five years with Mary Ann Rathburn in Cedaredge.
Anastasia comes from a musically talented family. Both of her grandmothers are musical performers. Busy Burgess sings with the Sweet Adelines chorus, and Geri Thiebaud played the organ for her church. Anastasia’s older brothers, Brad and Brian, both play musical instruments. And Anastasia’s mom plays flute and has performed with the Valley Symphony.
Her dad’s main contribution to the family’s musical enterprise was helping Anastasia get started, and now helping to manage things. “It was difficult at first,” Dave said, “because you don’t know who to talk with and they don’t know you. You have to send resumes, tapes, and CDs. People are a little iffy at first, until they get to know you.”
But once the organizers, stock contractors, and the professional booking agents in charge of the events get to know who you are, find out what you can do, and become confident you will show up on time to perform, then things get a little easier, Dave explained.
Anastasia is very grateful for support she received during 2007 from two sponsors: Wollert GMC of Montrose, and western apparel firm CowboysGoneWild.com.
Anastasia admits to having a few butterflies before her National Western performance last month. But they quickly went away when she began performing. While singing at the NatWest, “I was able to watch myself on the giant video screen, and that was kind of neat,” Anastasia said.
Though Edie says that her daughter displays a bit of normal teenage shyness at times, there is no trace of that when Anastasia begins singing. “Anastasia has been kind of shy ever since she was little, but she has always been able to sing, and always wanted to sing.”
Anastasia describes her performance experience in terms of being so confident and focused on the music and words she’s singing that any awareness of the thousands of people in the audience just goes away.
But there can be unexpected problems to deal with on the way to giving a perfect performance. For instance, in the large, closed-in NatWest arena, there was a distraction as Anastasia could hear her own voice echoing back the previous words as she sang the next line. But by knowing her material and remaining focused, two important professional performance skills, she overcame that unexpected problem.
Anastasia has performed in 35 public venues. Her performance at the National Western this year was her 15th at a pro rodeo event. Her resume of public performances to date have included the National Western this year and the Colorado State Fair PRCA Rodeo in 2007; the Colorado Pro Rodeo finals in Grand Junction in 2006 and 2007; the Labor Day PRCA Rodeo at Ridgway in 2006 and 2007; the Montrose County Fair PRCA Rodeo in 2007; the Delta County Fair PRCA Rodeo in 2006 and the PRCA Rodeo in 2007; Grand Champion at the Delta County Fair 4-H Talent Show in 2005; the Little Britches Rodeo opening ceremony at Cedaredge; opening ceremonies at Thunder Mountain Motor Speedway at Olathe and the Western Colorado Dragway at Grand Junction; and the National Junior College World Series at Grand Junction.
Anastasia and her parents are eyeing a performance at the Cheyenne Frontier Days as a possible future goal. The Frontier Days event is huge, and offers entertainers the additional opportunity for a live venue where they can perform a stage set of several numbers.
And beyond that, who knows? A wise man said, “Dream big, it costs no more than dreaming small.” Anastasia is “Singing for the top.”
But for the present time, this poised young lady’s singing career is creating lots of great fun and many memorable experiences for her and her family.
“I’ve just always wanted to sing,” Anastasia says. “I have been blessed with a wonderful gift, and I am honored to sing the national anthem.”