By Merle Exit
A hot summer morning was no deterrent for a few hundred children who showed up for a chance to stand in the spotlight at this August’s USTA’s US Open in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
The long line of hopefuls, many with mom and dad in tow, arrived from around the country on this early July day to audition for the opportunity to sing patriotic songs at the start of the tournament’s matches.
“We’re here today for the eighth annual casting call for kids 12 and under,” said Jasmine Sheppard, who works in corporate communications for the USTA. “This year, we had online and DVD submissions in April with more than 200 kids. Around 75 were chosen for this call back.”
Many of the children auditioning were already in show business and used to the cattle call process. Others just love to sing.
Judges will eventually select 12 young performers, who will take turns singing “America the Beautiful” starting with the Arthur Ashe Kids Day Aug. 23 through the evening sessions of the Open beginning Aug. 25.
Adding to the call back was a second opportunity during the afternoon with an open call for those who did not get a chance to submit their audition items. The opportunity was certainly not limited to local or even the New York City area.
One young singer, an 11-year-old girl from Houston, Texas, auditioned after her mother read about the casting call in the online version of “Backstage” magazine.
“I’ve been involved in community theatre and performing since the age of 4,” she said.
There were entire families with their luggage expecting to spend time in New York, who most likely just came from the airport.
When one young boy and his mother were asked where they were from, they responded “San Francisco.” They also said they had no plans to stay in the city overnight.
Queens was represented by 9-year-old Jalyssa Sierra of Glendale, who worn the No. 50 as she waited in line.
“I don’t know much about tennis,” Jalyssa said. “My mom brought it up and we’ve been practicing a lot making sure I know the words.”
Jalyssa, who has been singing since she was able to talk, has been involved in productions at Queens Theatre and has even appeared in a few Off-Broadway plays.
“It means a lot for me to be here now,” Jalyssa said. “It’s pretty amazing knowing that I might be able to perform in front of such a large audience. I’m both nervous and excited.”