October 26, 2020

Philadelphia Eagles pick VUMC resident to sing national anthem before game

The lifelong Eagles fan closed “The Star-Spangled Banner” with a big smile and the exhortation “Go, Birds!”

Alex Cesare just happened to have a giant Philadelphia Eagles banner to perform in front of for her performance tape.

VUMC anesthesiology resident Alex Cesare, MD, is a lifelong fan of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

She comes by it naturally — she grew up in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, and both her parents are from the Philadelphia area. Following the fate of the “Birds” is a family tradition.

So, she almost couldn’t believe it when she was selected to sing the national anthem before the Oct. 18 game between the Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens.

“Lots of [co-workers] didn’t know that I sing, and they’ve been like, ‘Why have you been hiding this?’”

Cesare owes it all to her mom.

When the Eagles announced that the team was holding virtual tryouts for singing the national anthem before its home games this year, Cesare’s mom sent her a link to the tryout form with a motherly suggestion that she should send in a tape.

“I did a lot of singing in high school and college,” the second-year VUMC resident physician said. “I’m a classically trained soprano at heart.”

Cesare took voice lessons growing up, sang in various choirs and is currently in both a musical group with co-workers and a church choir.

She had even sung the national anthem before, most recently at her medical school graduation from Penn State in 2019.

For her performance tape, Cesare put up a giant Eagles banner in her living room (she just happened to have one) and stood in front of it to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” a cappella, following the closing “home of the brave” with a big smile and the exhortation “Go, Birds!”

It was a winning performance. There were thousands of video submissions for the eight home game slots for the Eagles, and a few weeks after sending in her video, she got the news in an email from the team.

“I was in the Anesthesiology Labor and Delivery work room,” she said. She immediately announced to the residents and attendings that her anthem was going to be played on the stadium’s big screen to open an Eagles game.

And not just any game. In conjunction with the NFL, the Eagles designated the matchup with the Ravens a “Crucial Catch” game, highlighting a joint program between the league and the American Cancer Society to raise awareness of cancer treatment and prevention.

In her national anthem tape, Cesare wears a “Crucial Catch” T-shirt, and she says that as a physician, that connection was important to her.

As a daughter, the connection with fighting cancer was even more important.

“My mom is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma right now, and this has been really special to her,” she said.

Due to social distancing, there were only about 7,500 people in Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles’ home stadium, that day, but in addition to those in the stands who saw her performance on the big screen, she has gotten a lot of attention from friends and social media.

“Everyone that I’ve showed it to has really liked it,” she said. “Lots of [co-workers] didn’t know that I sing, and they’ve been like, ‘Why have you been hiding this?’ It’s been a lot of fun.”