The Star-Spangled Banner is still a high note for Victoria Rose Conroy.
The 18-year-old South Philly resident has traveled the world singing with Pennsylvania Girlchoir and has performed the national anthems of several countries in each one’s native tongue.
But there’s something uniquely satisfying about belting out her own country’s ode to the land of the free and home of the brave as a Soprano 1.
“I love the U.S. national anthem because it’s one of the most challenging songs to sing,” Conroy said. “It has such a wide range. I personally love singing challenging things.”
And she loves singing for big audiences.
Conroy’s vocals were featured on a collaboration project with nearly 80 other singers from across the country. They came together virtually to sing the national anthem on a recorded video to open the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 17. It was seen by millions of TV viewers.
The ensemble represented all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the five inhabited U.S. territories. The project, called “Choir Across America,” was headed by Pennsylvania Girlchoir, which quickly organized the video in the 10 days leading up to the convention. Choir members were sent sheet music and recording tracks. Because of the pandemic, they practiced through Zoom rehearsals and wore headphones so they could listen to the audio track to keep precise timing and pace.
Some singers appeared on the video and others, like Conroy, personally provided behind-the-scenes vocals, which were actually recorded in her bedroom closet near 29th and McKean streets in South Philly.
“It was hard work,” Conroy said with a laugh. “I must have recorded my part about 20 times. I kept listening and hearing background noises until a friend told me to record it in my closet. And it worked. It was a process of trial and error. But the payoff was unbelievable.”
Recordings and videos were pieced together, polished and unveiled in primetime to a national audience and Conroy was happy to hear her recording made the final cut, which was a surprise on opening night of the convention.
“It was an awesome experience to learn it and record it virtually,” Conroy said. “I’ve never done something of this caliber. The DNC is just of a different level, and seeing and hearing myself singing with all of these people on national TV was so powerful.”
It wasn’t the first time the organization was contacted for such events. The nonpartisan organization has been part of festivals in the past, such as in 2016, when Hillary Clinton was the Democratic presidential nominee.
Pennsylvania Girlchoir’s vision is to empower girls and young women to realize and affirm their authentic selves through the power of making music together. Its brother choir, Keystone State Boychoir, is also part of the Commonwealth Youthchoirs family.
For Conroy, singing for the DNC was an incredible experience, which may have even outranked some of her worldwide travel, which has taken her across more intriguing places than her bedroom closet.
A member of PA Girlchoir for the last five years, Conroy has taken summer trips with the organization to Spain, Sweden, Germany, South Africa and Australia, where she has performed in front of locals.
“I think it’s incredible being a temporary guest and seeing the faces of people when we come there and honor them and sing alongside them to recognize their culture,” Conroy said. “It’s awesome. It’s one of my favorite things.”
Commonwealth Youthchoir Artistic Director Elizabeth Parker has seen the magic firsthand.
“Every time we tour, we learn the national anthem of that country,” Parker said. “Last year, when we were in Australia, we sang their national anthem, and just looking at their faces and seeing that sense of honoring the place where they are was very evident. Our singers got to see how we build that global citizenry that we strive for.”
Conroy’s talents don’t end with her voice. She’s been playing violin since kindergarten and picked up the viola in high school. She’s been singing as long as she can remember. Maybe even longer.
“When I was young, my mom-mom used to sing lullabies to me and I would sing back,” Conroy said. “She always said to my dad that I was going to be a singer.”
Next, she wants to be a policy maker at the government level. Conroy just started her freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania after attending Waldron Academy for elementary school and neighboring Merion Mercy Academy in Montgomery County for high school.
“I’m really excited to be at Penn,” Conroy said. “My high school and grade school were on the same campus. Being at one place and becoming so familiar with it for 14 years and having to go and leave it for something so brand new and so much bigger is scary but also very exciting. I’m excited to make the best of it and grow as a student and as a musician and all-around person in my next four years at Penn.”
Conroy is hoping to continue her love of music, as she plans to audition for the university’s a cappella group “Off the Beat” as well as the school’s Bloomers Comedy Troupe.
Conroy has performed challenging numbers, such as singing the guitar solo of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” She’s also sang in Russian and Catalan Spanish and even Mandarin Chinese. She’s ready for whatever challenge lies next.
“Victoria has been a leader for as long as I can remember,” Parker said. “She’s an incredible talent who is so unassuming and modest. She’s in it for the work. There’s kids that go into it knowing what it takes and want to work at it and there’s others that want it to come easy. Victoria wants to do the work.”
To see a video of the group performing “One Voice” at a virtual spring concert click here.