At Friday’s Charlotte Hornets/Philadelphia 76ers preseason game, 68 students from two programs in the Meadowlark Middle School musical department performed “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Eighth-graders in the chorus and band at the middle school were invited to play and sing the U.S. national anthem after auditioning for the honor.

Matthew Liner is the school’s band director and Theresa Kennedy is its choral director.

This is not the first time the Meadowlark band has played at an NBA game. The band performed at a Hornets game in Charlotte five years ago.

This past July, Liner mentioned that performance to Kennedy, who had recently joined the Meadowlark faculty.

“It was a great experience and we wanted to provide the opportunity for the kids again,” Liner said.

When Liner and Kennedy found out about the preseason game at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, they contacted the Hornets about a collaborative band/chorus performance.

There are a number of steps to get approval to play at an NBA game.

“You have to be approved locally through the Hornets first and then through the NBA,” Liner said.

The Meadowlark directors submitted a recording of the band playing alone as well as a combined band/chorus recording.

“The national anthem is something that we work on every year,” Liner said. “It’s a piece we need to have ready in case we are ever asked to perform it.”

He said that the students were stoked when they learned that they had received approval from NBA officials.

A rehearsal at Meadowlark Middle on Thursday, several 13-year-old students in the chorus spoke about their big day.

Olivia Morris said she wasn’t nervous because she has performed the national anthem at Joel Coliseum before with a Winston-Salem girls chorus at a Wake Forest University women’s basketball game and once when the Harlem Globetrotters played in town.

“I think it’s awesome,” Morris said of performing at the Charlotte Hornets/Philadelphia 76ers preseason game. “I just love performing and I love singing.”

Trevon Bash said he has sung in a big church in front of a lot of people but not in an arena.

Bash said he was excited to perform at the coliseum “because it’s new for me.”

He said the best part would be hanging out with his friends.

Chase Geary, 13, used the word “cool” to describe singing at the game.

“You get to see a basketball game and you get to perform in front of a lot of people,” Geary said. “It’s the national anthem, as well, so that’s another really cool thing about it.”

Abaigeal Hannah said she has performed before for large audiences but never at a basketball game or at Joel Coliseum.

“I love singing and hanging out with friends, and I love being able to go to different places performing and seeing new things,” Hannah said.

She said her parents and brother plan to be at the game.

Ashley Mayo said she was a little nervous because it would be a new experience and a lot of people watching, but she was excited, too.

“I have a new teacher this year (in chorus) and she seems pretty great,” Mayo said.

The directors spoke of the importance of the students getting to play and sing at the game.

“We love having the opportunity to get out and perform in the community because our school concerts are really intended just for the students, family members and our local school community,” Liner said. “To get a chance to get out into the Winston-Salem community and perform and showcase the kids’ talents is a great opportunity for the kids.”

Kennedy said that performing at the preseason game is an amazing opportunity for the students, adding that it could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them.

“How often do you get to perform at a professional basketball game?” Kennedy said. “Like never. That’s a huge deal. The fact that we are able to do that here, I think, is awesome. I love giving kids these experiences that they might not otherwise have.”

Liner has been a band director for 20 years — the past 15 years at Meadowlark Middle and five years previously in Davidson County. He has received band director awards at the local and regional level in North Carolina.

Prior to coming to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools during the 2019-2020 school year, Kennedy was the choral director for 17 years at Jamestown Middle School in Guilford County, winning teacher awards at the local school system, state and national level.

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