The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

85° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA singer ‘humbled’ by anthem performance

UA singer humbled by anthem performance

Just after 6 p.m. on Jan. 12, Dennis Tamblyn planted himself on stage at McKale Center. A music graduate student, Tamblyn should have started classes that Wednesday. Instead, he is about to deliver the national anthem to a crowd of 14,000. Behind him, UA President Robert Shelton stands flanked by the Arizona and United States flags, with one hand over his heart. In front of him, a blur of faces: classmates, faculty, Arizonans he has never met and President Barack Obama.

In the wake of the tragic Jan. 8 shooting, Tamblyn was asked to open the “”Together We Thrive”” memorial service by singing the “”Star-Spangled Banner”” with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. Before enrolling in the UA School of Music in 2000, Tamblyn held degrees in biochemistry and molecular physics, and his only singing experience was in a boy’s choir at the age of nine. He soon discovered that music truly made him happy.

“”Originally I wanted to be music teacher,”” Tamblyn said. “”But then as I started singing more and doing more opera, I realized how much I loved that, and so that’s really what I’ve stuck to since.””

Since starting his career in opera, Tamblyn has been in shows all over the state with groups such as Arizona Opera, Phoenix Opera and even the University of Arizona Opera Theater. He also spent a summer abroad, singing at Opera Classica in Germany.

Though he decided against a future in teaching, he has managed to help kids learn about music through Opening Minds through the Arts, an outreach program for elementary schoolers. He is currently helping first graders learn their reading and writing skills by having them write their own operas, all of which, Tamblyn says, are hilarious.

It was this type of involvement that inspired Shelton, College of Fine Arts Dean Jory Hancock and School of Music Director Peter McAllister  to select Tamblyn to sing at “”Together We Thrive.”” At first though, he wasn’t sure why he was selected at all.

“”It wasn’t until the next day when Peter McAllister kind of explained to me that me being a student and being active in the Tucson community was an integral part,”” Tamblyn said. “”Because they didn’t want the memorial to be about U of A. It was being held at U of A but they didn’t want it to be a U of A thing. They wanted to get the Tucson community involved.””

Tamblyn was honored by the privilege. Though he was only told of his performance the night before, he spent hours preparing for what could be one of the most memorable performances of his life — leaving plenty of nerves to overcome.

“”I pulled from every sort of resource that I had, internally, because I was freaking out,”” Tamblyn said. “”I kept telling myself that they probably won’t show the national anthem on TV. They’ll probably just show the president’s speech … And it wasn’t until I was done singing that I realized that I was on TV.””

The realization may have begun mid-song when Tamblyn’s phone accidentally turned on in his pocket and began vibrate. He would later discover that the calls were from friends telling him that he was on TV.

As for what singing for Obama was like, Tamblyn said there was nothing like it, and he didn’t want to try making it about himself.

“”Normally in an event where the president is there, it would be a really great time to self promote,”” Tamblyn said. “”But being there really humbled me because I was right there with the victims and their families. Being right in the midst of all those people made me realize, ‘Hey, guess what, Dennis? This isn’t about you.’ So, it actually relieved a lot of pressure because I’m just there to do this in hopes that it could provide some sort of comfort or some sort of hope for those victims and the Tucson community in general.””

Tamblyn felt that the president’s speech was more significant and felt very strongly about the entire event in general, appreciating how the president managed to bridge the gaps between political parties with his speech.

“”I’ll go on record saying I’m a very devout Republican, but (Obama’s) speech was so phenomenal, and it touched me in a way that I am forever grateful for,”” Tamblyn said. “”The things he said about how this isn’t a time to be blaming, a time to be pointing fingers; how this was a time to look at your life and how well you’ve loved, and talking about (Christina Green) and how we need to be living up to her standards and expectations. Those things I will never forget.””

Tamblyn would have liked to shake the president’s hand, but the experience he was afforded proved to be endlessly satisfying.

“”I kind of sat there looking across the bottom of McKale there, and seeing what these people needed; and that again it was about them and not about me. I got to sing for him. That’s all I needed.””

More to Discover
Activate Search