Reality show finalist fulfills dream of singing national anthem for Orioles

The Baltimore Sun

Long before she captured the attention of millions of viewers this summer as a finalist on the hit NBC show America's Got Talent, 14-year-old Julienne Irwin had her eyes set on singing the national anthem at Camden Yards.

And while many would rank a gushing message of support by Martina McBride and a duet with teen country star Taylor Swift well ahead of an appearance at a baseball game, this Orioles fan considers her performance yesterday as her most memorable.

Talk about a hometown girl.

Before she performed, the Bel Air resident showed signs of a typical awe-struck teenager. Her jaw dropped after a brief conversation with Orioles starter Melvin Mora.

"Oh my gosh!" she mouthed to her father, Felix "Phil" Irwin.

When it was time to perform, Julienne displayed the poise and maturity that captured fans this summer. The words of the anthem flowed with the clarity and strength of a professional. Julienne later said she was a bundle of nerves inside.

"That song is hard to do," said Julienne, who was draped in an Orioles jersey with her last name on the back. "I was worried about forgetting the words."

Julienne's mother, Marcia, nervously watched the performance from a skybox with a group of family and friends.

"There was a knot in my stomach the size of a football," Marcia said. "She's talked about this since she was 5 years old."

Rhonda Fraczkowski, the mother of Julienne's closest friend, Morgan, said her rendition of the national anthem was "awesome."

"It was so natural," said Fraczkowski, a Forest Hill resident who watched the performance with Julienne's family and friends. "It was a dream come true."

Her dream

Julienne prompted her appearance at Camden Yards when she told of her dream to sing at an Orioles game during an episode of America's Got Talent, a grab-bag competition that pits performers against one another week after week. Julienne was one of four finalists on the show.

"We saw the show and we wanted to help her fulfill her dream," said Monica Pence, director of public relations for the Orioles. "We were happy to do that. ... It's a neat story to have someone locally do so well."

Even before she auditioned for the show, Julienne told her parents that she wanted to sing at Camden Yards.

"She said, 'I'll take care of it,' " her father said. "This was all her doing."

Julienne's love of the Orioles began while watching games on television with her father as a younger child. She and her father have followed the Orioles to away games, traveling to cities with historic baseball stadiums.

"We usually attend 10 home games a year," said Julienne, who attended several major league baseball games while in Los Angeles, competing on the show. "I watch all of the games on TV."

While she wasn't attending baseball games, sightseeing or monitoring baseball message boards, Julienne was showcasing her vocal ability during the competition.

New opportunities

And although she placed fourth and missed out on the $1 million top prize, she attracted loyal fans and music executives alike. In fact, she said, she is in talks with two music labels.

"Life moves more rapidly now," Julienne said.

Right now Julienne is settling into life as a student. She began her freshman year at Harford Christian School in Darlington on Tuesday.

"We're tired," said her mother. Julienne "spent 39 days in Los Angeles this summer. ... The start of school has centered her."

At school, Julienne said her newfound celebrity status lasted about half of the first day of classes.

"Some people at school are my friends now who weren't before," she said. "It's pretty normal now."

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