An Unexpected Blessing
KSU student gets impromptu chance to sing at Braves game
KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 5, 2018) — Kennesaw State University student Sirena Grace brought a roar of applause from the crowd when she performed “God Bless America” at the Atlanta Braves game at SunTrust Park on Sept. 21.
Not bad for someone who had only two hours to prepare to sing in front of 34,370 people.
“That moment, I felt extremely proud and the energy of the crowd was exhilarating,” Grace said. “I felt the emotion and the pride that was in the stadium, and it gave me strength to be able to hit those high notes and sing with love.”
Grace, a journalism major and a student in the Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program (MEBUS), happened to be at SunTrust Park that night to watch friends give a pre-game show at The Battery. The sound engineer, Andrew Tanguay, recognized Grace from a local talent show earlier this year, and he asked if she would like to sing “God Bless America” because the scheduled performer had canceled.
“I said, ‘Are you kidding? Yes! Of course I’ll sing it,’” Grace said. “It was an amazing opportunity that I could not pass up. It happened so randomly and I had to prepare quickly.”
Grace gave an impromptu audition in a hallway for Braves events coordinator Camille Tracy and earned the gig to sing during the seventh-inning stretch. With only two hours until first pitch, Grace went to her car to do some vocal warm-up exercises and just relax before the game.
Performing “God Bless America” was a deeply personal moment for Grace, the daughter of immigrants from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic and the first person in her family to be born in the United States. Also, Grace shares family ties to the military: her father is an ex-Marine, her brother serves in the U.S. Air Force and her late fiancé, Willie James Wiley, was serving in the U.S. Army when he died in a car accident.
“Singing that song was very emotional for me. I was actually trying to hold back tears while I was walking from the dugout to the field to sing,” Grace said. “I consider myself to be extremely blessed because people come to this country to seek opportunity; that’s exactly what my family did, and I felt extremely proud to represent my Hispanic community. And with my very personal connection to the military, I wanted to show appreciation to our great soldiers and how much they do for us.”
Grace, 27, is passing on Wiley’s commitment to serving the community to the son they had together, 11-year-old Angel. Grace said her son joins her in efforts to help others, such as volunteering at homeless shelters or donating clothes to children in need. Also, after Grace earns her journalism degree from Kennesaw State next year, she hopes to focus on writing about social issues.
Along with taking a full load of college courses and being a single mom, Grace is continuing to develop her music career. Through MEBUS, she is recording original music with the help of John Driskell Hopkins of the Zac Brown Band. Grace is putting together an album of her original work – which she describes as a combination of Latin music, hip-hop and rhythm and blues – that she plans to release early next year on platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes.
“When I started at KSU, I was not sure what I was going to do, but I knew that I wanted to be in entertainment and I found the MEBUS program,” Grace said. “I think the most important part of the program is the connections. The way that MEBUS has been able to connect me with people in the industry has helped me tremendously with my career.”
– Paul Floeckher
Video by Rob Witzel
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 35,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university's vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. A Carnegie-designated doctoral institution, it is one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.