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College Sports

Setting the tone: Randall Murrain’s rendition of national anthem at Towson athletic events elicit ‘goose bumps’

As Randall Murrain wrapped up his most recent rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Saturday’s men’s basketball game pitting the College of Charleston against Towson at SECU Arena, he was approached by Cougars coach Pat Kelsey, who enthusiastically thanked Murrain for his performance.

“My dad’s a former Marine, and when you have a great anthem to start the game, it just sets the tone, the energy, the buzz in the gym,” Kelsey said after the College of Charleston’s 76-74 overtime win. “He hit it, he killed it. I was trying to stand at attention, but I turned around, and I had to get a glimpse, and I just had to go tell him how impressed I was. I just said, ‘Man, you killed it! That was unbelievable!’”

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Murrain, 35, was appreciative of the response from Kelsey and other opposing coaches who have showered him with encouraging words.

“It’s one of the moments that I really get a kick out of the most,” he said.

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Randall Murrain sings the national anthem and "Lift Every Voice and Sing" at Towson sporting events. Here Murrain is performing before the women's basketball team's game against Drexel at SECU Arena on March 5.

Murrain’s voice has been a familiar one at Towson sporting events. Since 2015, he has been the university’s choice to sing the national anthem, and after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in June 2020, he added “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to his repertoire.

Murrain estimated he has sung the national anthem at Towson athletic events around 200 times — “if I’m being conservative,” he said. He sang the national anthem at the Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament in Washington in March and the CAA volleyball tournaments at Towson for the past two years.

He performed at Tuesday night’s inauguration for newly elected state’s attorney Ivan Bates and said he might sing at the CAA women’s basketball tournament at Towson in March. “I’m still kind of in shock about all of this happening,” he said.

Murrain, who got his start singing at Tigers softball games, is welcomed by players and coaches alike, said Towson softball coach Lisa Costello.

“Every time I hear him sing, it gives me goose bumps,” she said. “He is tremendous, and on top of that, he’s just a great fan. He knows all the kids’ names, he stays for games, he brings his mom. He is just a tremendous human.”

Born in New York but raised in Baltimore since he was 2, Murrain joined the choir at McCormick Elementary School when he was 5. When he turned 10, the choir director encouraged him to audition for the Maryland State Boychoir, for which he sang for 11 years.

Murrain said his participation in the choir at McCormick was almost serendipitous.

“It was part of a class,” he explained. “I didn’t think I was any good, and I didn’t think I’d be any good. But I sang a little bit, and it turned out that I was good.”

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Randall Murrain sings before Towson's football game against New Hampshire at Johnny Unitas Stadium on Sept. 24.

In 2001, Murrain auditioned for and was accepted by the Baltimore School for the Arts. After graduating in 2005, he enrolled at CCBC Essex and graduated with an associate’s in fine arts in 2010.

In 2011, while riding on a shuttle bus at Towson, Murrain struck up a conversation with Stef Polonia, an outfielder for the Tigers softball team. Polonia invited Murrain to a game, which the latter began doing on a regular basis.

Murrain said the sound system at the softball stadium malfunctioned frequently. When it was spotty again on senior day in 2015, Murrain offered to sing the national anthem, and a star was born.

Costello said the power of Murrain’s bass adds to his renditions.

“It just carries,” she said. “There have been times when the mic doesn’t work, and he’s like, ‘Fine. I don’t need it.’ He just lets it rip without the mic, and you don’t even know the difference.”

Murrain said he didn’t know his performances had garnered any attention until members of the Towson athletic department began asking him to sing at football, basketball and lacrosse games.

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“It was very surprising. It was also very humbling,” he said. “I kind of say to myself, ‘Who am I? I’m kind of just this guy from Baltimore who has some singing talent.’ I always found it very flattering. It was nice to know that people actually enjoyed what I did.”

Murrain said he has been approached by fans of the Tigers and their opponents expressing their lack of knowledge about “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the Black national anthem.

“Not only is that personal for me, but it also allows some people to be educated and be exposed to something new,” he said. “It’s a great responsibility as well.”

Randall Murrain sings before the men's basketball team's game against Delaware in a Colonial Athletic Association Tournament semifinal at the Washington Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington on March 7.

Murrain said he spends about 80% of his day listening to music and has more than 6,600 songs on his iPod. He said he enjoys listening to rock, jazz and country.

Murrain said one of his goals would be to perform at a Ravens or Orioles game, especially the Ravens.

“I’ve been watching them play through both Super Bowls, the ups and the downs,” he said. “I’m a diehard Ravens fan, and it would be something that I think would be really fun, and it’s something I would really love to do.”

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Murrain has a backer in the College of Charleston’s Kelsey, who vouched for Murrain singing at M&T Bank Stadium. Kelsey also wondered aloud whether Murrain would branch out to another venue.

“I might fly him down to Charleston. Would he do it?” Kelsey asked a reporter.

Alas, Murrain said his loyalty lies with Towson.

“I couldn’t see myself doing it anywhere else,” he said. “It would have to be with their blessing because they’re more than just friends to me. They’re virtually family, and I wouldn’t do that to them.”


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