Eight years ago, on the advice of her friends, 4th grader Jasmine Fondrisi asked to sing the national anthem before a Utica Elementary School basketball game. The scene on that day in the elementary gymnasium was much different than the scene on Feb. 27, 2021, as Fondrisi stood, center stage, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis singing the national anthem prior to the Class 3A Girls Basketball State Finals.
“Ever since I was little I loved singing, and I loved performing,” she says. That love was showcased in her participation in cheerleading, theater, and music all throughout middle school. But despite her talent, many at Jeff High didn’t necessarily know Fondrisi for her voice prior to this year. As an active student, she is just about everywhere: the IMPACT slides warning about avoiding dangerous situations, the auditorium preparing to perform, the football sideline cheering on the team or in the studio as a broadcaster for WJHI (Jeff’s radio and TV station).
Yet this year she was given a new opportunity to represent Jeff High, by singing the national anthem before basketball games. Fondrisi says she got the opportunity simply by asking. As she was sitting in the stands watching her sister play, she recalls relaying to her grandma that she wished she could sing the national anthem. “The worst they could say is no,” her grandma remarked. So she asked the athletic office for the opportunity to sing the anthem prior to tip-off. When they said yes, Fondrisi was once again ready to do what she loved.
After that, it became a routine — and as she continued to perform, the compliments didn’t stop. One of those compliments came from the referees at the boys New Albany game, along with an offer to sing the national anthem at the state finals this year. After they exchanged information, and the IHSAA approved, the stage was set.
This performance was different than the usual at Jeff High. Rather than warming up in her car, she warmed up in the bathroom, and instead of easily maneuvering through a gym she had been to all her life, she admits she got lost in Bankers Life. Fondrisi summed up the experience in one word – “surreal.” She began as she had so many times before, and as she finished with “home of the brave,” her performance was met with cheers and applause.
For Fondrisi, singing the national anthem means a lot, whether in fourth grade or high school. “I feel proud because I get to represent myself, and I get to represent the school,” she says.