Windermere Prep student and Hamlin resident Francesca Tarantino, 14, performed the national anthem the July 11 Miami Marlins game.
“I was so nervous; we got there hours before the game,” she said. “I was just sitting in the back, and I was just losing it. When I got out to the field, they gave me an ear monitor and told me to sing on the mic for practice, and (that’s when) I started to lose my nerves a little bit, because just seeing everything and getting the vibe really helped me control my anxiety.
“And then, I started singing, and all my nerves went away,” she said. “I started seeing myself on the screen and hearing the people at the end when I was close to finishing singing the song, I could hear them like, ‘Woo,’ and that gave me some encouragement.”
From an early age, Francesca was taught the importance of singing the national anthem. Francesca has performed the anthem at several sporting events at Windermere Prep for softball, girls basketball and girls volleyball games.
“The school actually wants their students to sing it without all the extra riffs and runs, so we’ve always told her that the song isn’t about (her), that (she is) not bigger than the song,” mother Danielle Tarantino said. “The song is what matters, so you have to do the song with respect, and that’s what she does.”
THE ROAD TO LOANDEPOT PARK
Everything started with an email after Danielle Tarantino sent a video of her daughter performing the anthem at one of the sporting events at her school to different sports organizations.
“I just did some research and sent it to a bunch of places,” Danielle Tarantino said. “I sent it to Tampa Bay, to the USFL — (basically) to as many sporting teams I could think of — and I didn’t expect to hear anything back from any of them. They must get thousands of auditions, and quite honestly, I thought it was spam or a joke on that Saturday morning when (they reached out and said) they had an availability for (that) Monday morning.”
Francesca didn’t know about the opportunity until after her mother already had accepted it.
“There was really no time to think about it, and I said yes before I even asked her,” Danielle Tarantino said. “Luckily it was over the summer. I figured the nerves would come in, and I think she kept saying, ‘I’m not ready.’ And I kept saying, ‘You are ready; you’ve done this before, several times before, just with a smaller audience, but it is the same song.’”
“She kept saying, ‘None of these people (knows) you; it’s not like you are singing it for the school,’ and that’s what really calmed me down a lot,” Francesca Tarantino said.
To their surprise, after hearing Francesca sing at the game, the Marlins organization did something it doesn’t normally do — it reached out to the Tarantinos and invited Francesca back for another game this season and for games of future seasons, as well.
“I feel so honored, I was expecting it to be just a one-and-done thing,” Francesca Tarantino said.
A MUSICAL HOUSEHOLD
Music has always been a part of the Tarantino family.
“I’m very much into music, and so is my husband,” Danielle Tarantino said.
Francesca would go around the house singing different songs ever since she was about 3 years old.
The Tarantinos moved to Orlando from Pennsylvania in 2016, a little before Francesca turned 8 years old. Prior to moving, when she was in second grade, Francesca discovered her love for singing and performing during a talent show where she sang the song “Rock and Roll All Nite” by KISS.
“That’s when I realized I really want to perform,” she said. “Then, along the way, I got my first guitar and started taking singing lessons, and doing covers, and then I started writing my own music.”
When she was in fourth grade, she participated in the musical “Beauty and the Beast” — in which she performed as Belle. Not only was Francesca involved in musical theater at the beginning of her singing career but also in community theater at the Young Star Musical Theatre in Winter Garden.
With the help of community theatre performances and her vocal coach, Mike Walker, Francesca gained confidence in her singing and decided to step away from musical theater.
Recently, Francesca has been doing covers by Paramore, Kelly Clarkson and Heart.
In addition to covering different rock bands, Francesca also composes her own songs. Later this year, she will release her debut single, “My Runaway,” which she wrote with the help of her brother, Dominic, and her music teacher, Walker.
“I definitely want to pursue a career, and at some point, I want to release an album,” Francesca Tarantino said.
Both her parents, Danielle and Franklin, and her brother are Francesca’s biggest fans.
“I’m really proud of her; she works really hard, and that’s the most important thing,” Danielle Tarantino said. “She practices every day. She’s constantly learning. She listens, and she gives it her all.”