Adrien Santiago auditions at the Queens Theatre.
© Michael O'Kane
By Erin Bruehl, USOpen.org
FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. – John Lewandowski, 12, came to the Queens Theatre with his mother Jo Ann and grandmother Rose Pullano, hoping to be selected to sing at the 2013 US Open.
John had tried out previously and decided to give it another try this year, hoping to marry his love for singing with his love for tennis. You see, John is already familiar with the grounds: The Rego Park, Queens, resident plays tennis regularly at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the US Open, and he loves coming to the Open, which Jo Ann has been attending since it was in Forest Hills back in the 1970s.
"I like singing and I’m a big tennis fan," John said. "I love watching tennis and I love playing. If I can’t get to a court, I’ll hit against a wall outside my house. It would be awesome to sing at the US Open."
He’s not the only one who feels that way. For the past six years, hundreds of excited children 12-and-unders have auditioned for the chance of a lifetime – the opportunity to sing in Arthur Ashe Stadium during a session of that year’s US Open.
This year the selection process began with DVD submissions, which allowed more kids than ever before to audition. And on Tuesday the US Open stayed true to its local Queens roots, holding an exclusive open audition for borough residents at the Queens Theatre, which is located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, just steps from Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"It’s very nice and convenient," Jo Ann Lewandowski said of holding the Casting Call for Queens residents. "It’s just a nice thing for the community."
Adrien Santiago, 11, of Rockaway Beach, was just as excited about the local audition. She came with her father, Daniel, who took the day off work for the occasion. It was her first time at the Casting Call and she has never attended the US Open, but she knows how big Arthur Ashe Stadium is – capacity is more than 24,000 – and what an opportunity it would be.
"I can envision being there in Arthur Ashe Stadium," she said. "I’ve never performed in such a giant place."
The auditioning children performed "America the Beautiful" a cappella in front of panel of three judges from the music and entertainment industry, and many had been rehearsing for months to prepare.
Twins Seza and Tahoma Fink, 11, came with their friend Scotty Coia, 11, all of Bayside, along with their mothers Canan Fink and Lisa Coia. The twins had been practicing "America the Beautiful" every day since they decided to come, hearing about the audition from Lisa, who saw it on the local news and thought it was a nice opportunity for everyone involved.
"It is very important that they do something for the community," Lisa Coia said of the US Open giving back to local residents. "Not to do it for tourists or celebrities who come to the US Open but to reach out to the community. I’m glad the US Open decided to do this."
The names and number of those selected to perform will be announced later this summer. For children who submitted a DVD, there will be an in-person callback audition July 11 in New York for selected participants.