During a recent visit to a Washington Nationals game, Robert Siegel was struck by the singer of the national anthem — by both his smooth baritone and his curiously apt name: D.C. Washington. So, he invited Washington into the studio for a conversation and a few songs.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Certain things fall into the background of a visit to a major league baseball game. The shout to buy cold beer, the thrum of the crowd, who sings the national anthem. Well, I attended a Washington Nationals game over the weekend. They won 5-4 over the Milwaukee Brewers whom I was actually rooting for. But, on the positive side, I could still hear the voice of that singer - still do, in fact. And his name stuck. His name is D.C. Washington. I wanted to know more about the man who filled the stadium with his perfect pitch and smooth tenor, and so we've invited him to the studio. Welcome to the program.
D.C. WASHINGTON: Thank you.
SIEGEL: And first, the name. Your name is D.C. Washington?
WASHINGTON: It is. Those are my initials.
SIEGEL: And if we put you in a list by last name - Washington, D.C.?
WASHINGTON: Oh yes, I've heard that a few times.
SIEGEL: What does D.C. stand for?
WASHINGTON: Dwight Clyde.
SIEGEL: When you were named Dwight Clyde, did your parents have the District of Columbia in mind?
WASHINGTON: Don't think so. I grew up in Arkansas so I'm not quite sure what they had in mind. (Laughing).
SIEGEL: And when you first did this, did this fact of being named D.C. Washington - did it register with the Redskins? I mean, did somebody notice wow, what a great idea to have the guy who's singing the anthem in Washington, D.C. be named D.C. Washington?
WASHINGTON: No, I think it was a guy in my church worked for the Redskins and took a CD of mine to them, and they invited me.
SIEGEL: It is a catchy name for singing in Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON: Yeah, well, I'm a catchy kind of guy.
SIEGEL: Well, you sang the national anthem for the Nats. You've done it many times.
WASHINGTON: I have been singing for them just about since they've been in town.
SIEGEL: That's not the only singing that you do?
WASHINGTON: It is not the only singing. I sing at the Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Virginia. That's where I do most of my singing.
SIEGEL: And your professional experience - well, you have an extensive musical education with a Master's degree in...
WASHINGTON: I'm a Masters in music education from Mississippi College. And I was a voice major. And my goal was to be a schoolteacher in Arkansas. That's what I wanted to do. But when I graduated from college, I had a two-year Army commitment and that turned into 22 years.
SIEGEL: Well, first of all, tell me about the challenge because you not only sing the national anthem but then you come back for the seventh inning stretch to sing "God Bless America." And singing to a big stadium, I assume you have this big reverberation coming back at you. It must be very challenging.
WASHINGTON: It is. It's a huge reverberation. The first time I did a big outdoor event was the Redskins. And they told me that one of the things you have to be careful of is that you don't sing with yourself. And the big thing is just being very careful not to forget the words.
SIEGEL: Which - has that ever happened to you?
WASHINGTON: It's never happened so far. The first time I did the Redskins I was nervous for three weeks that I was going to become an ESPN highlight - not for my singing but for forgetting the words.
SIEGEL: Forgot the words. Well, can you give our listeners a sense of this great voice that I heard the other day at Nationals Park. Sing for us.
WASHINGTON: (Singing) God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above.
SIEGEL: (Clapping) I'm going to applaud but you must be used to hearing 40,000 people applauding after that.
WASHINGTON: I hear my mom applauding so that's all I need.
SIEGEL: Do you figure that, in part, you're leading people in singing the anthem?
WASHINGTON: That's why I sing it, basically, the way I sing it. I do a little bit of changing to it but not much because I think it should be something that we all join in together. And so I think some people sing along with me while I'm singing, and so I try to make sure I keep it at a tempo that's recognizable and people feel like they can sing with.
SIEGEL: Yes, you do sing it in a way that we can sing along. But when you get to the home of the brave, I mean, I can't sing along with you when - what you're doing with home of the brave. How do you wrap up?
WASHINGTON: (Singing) O say does that Star-Spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
SIEGEL: Play ball.
WASHINGTON: Play ball.
SIEGEL: D.C. Washington, thank you very much.
WASHINGTON: Thank you, sir.
SIEGEL: D.C. Washington, a regular performer at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.