Tim Cassidy had more to do to prepare for Kansas State graduation ceremonies Friday than make sure his cap and gown were in order. Cassidy sang the Star Spangled Banner for the Graduate School ceremony.
Cassidy, who received a master’s degree in choral conducting, said it wasn’t the first time he has sung for his graduation. When he finished his bachelor’s degree at Emporia State University, he sang the anthem there too. So, when it came time to sing the song, he nailed it.
“Just like anything, the more prepared you are, the more experienced you are, the better you will be at doing it,” he said. “I am well prepared and fairly experienced in doing it.”
In addition to singing the Star Spangled Banner for graduation, he has performed it in Bramlage. That was as part of an acapella quartet his first year. He said that helped him know how it would sound when he sang, although it didn’t mean he wasn’t chanting in the back of his mind right before his performance, “Don’t screw it up; don’t screw it up.”
He also changed the key. Being a bass vocal, it is difficult for him to hit the high note in the key of B-flat, which is what the song is normally performed in. So to help him hit the high note at the end, he dropped the entire song by a step by singing it in the key of A-flat.
“Most people want to start the Star Spangled Banner in the middle of their range, but if you do that you are going to be singing really, really high by the end of it, which is not a good thing,” he said. “Singing bass, I am really comfortable singing the low stuff.”
So, he started the song at the bottom of his range, and by the end, the high note was not much of a stretch. He hit is without even straining, as far as the crowd could tell.
Although he spent two years at K-State learning how to be a better conductor, not all of his learning came from inside the classroom. He said the most memorable experience happened when he was leading the women’s choir last year in singing the Star Spangled Banner for a basketball game in Bramlage. He said the first time they sang, the ladies “knocked it out of the park,” but the second time was a train wreck.
He said he gave them the note to begin singing and it was awful. So, thinking they were just nervous, he stopped them, gave the note again, and began anew.
It was still bad, very very bad,” Cassidy said. “It was just as bad; but we continued, and they finished.”
Upon conclusion he said the crowd didn’t “boo” them, but there was definitely a feeling from the polite golf claps, that the crowd wasn’t pleased.
He said on the way home, he figured out what went wrong-he had given the choir the wrong starting note. He said normally when a conductor gives the first note; it is the same as the key of the song. In the anthem’s case it would be B-flat. The problem is that the song begins on F, making that the note to give.
Cassidy said the next day at practice he explained to them his mistake.
As for Friday, Cassidy not only started on the right note, the crowd clapped, cheered and whistled wildly at the end.
Cassidy began singing in middle school.He said his mom played the clarinet and his dad played the drums, and they instilled in him a loe of music. So when he started considering what kind of career to pursue, music felt right.
“I enjoy helping people and working with people, and people thought I had a good singing voice and I had a passion for it,” he said. “So, it just went from there.”
Cassidy has been offered a job in Marion , where he will teach 5th-12th grade vocal choir. He said he and his wife, Tamara, wanted to move closer to her parents, who live in Andover, but “the district was nice and the people were nice, which always helps.”
He said when he started graduate school he had considered going for his Ph.D., but toward the end, he decided he didn’t want to move his family half-way across the country. In addition to his wife, he has two girls: Sophia, 2, and Julie, 7-months.