Barrington Hills teen’s voice has crowds standing at attention

Not every 14-year-old can command the attention of thousands of people.

But Ayanna Sidi of Barrington Hills knows how to hold the crowd with her rendition of the national anthem, no matter the venue — or the weather.

Ayanna performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” for nearly 18,000 fans before the Milwaukee Bucks game in Milwaukee against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 24.

“I was excited to sing before that many people,” she said. “I wasn’t super nervous, because my mom was saying that everyone who listens to the national anthem wants the singer to do good. It’s not a competition.”

It was a rare opportunity that almost didn’t happen.

Ayanna’s mother, Nicole Sidi, said the Bucks hold an open audition every year for anthem singers. Family members from Wisconsin encouraged Ayanna to try out when they learned she was performing, Sidi said.

Only the tryout fell on Sept. 11, the night Ayanna was scheduled to sing at an event for the charity Folds of Honor at the Barrington Hills Country Club. Missing classes — Ayanna’s a student at Barrington Middle School’s Station Campus — was not an option, since she had already missed a lot of time recovering from a fractured hip suffered while skiing.

Nicole learned that Ayanna could instead submit a clip by email.

“I listened to everything. She’s perfect,” a Bucks representative responded.

Ayanna said that on the night she sang, she was first taken to a green room before she was ushered out for a sound check, during which she had a chance to see the players warming up. There was also a brush with greatness in the form of the Bucks’ star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 30 points that night in the team’s 118-93 victory.

“He actually walked right in front of her, right before they turned the lights out and we were ready to go for the anthem,” Nicole said.

Ayanna said she is a Bucks fan, and, of course, Antetokounmpo is a favorite.

“It’s really inspirational how he was an immigrant and made it to the NBA,” she said, adding that he prevailed despite all the hatred he encountered.

Ayanna, who also performed at the Norge Ski Club’s Winter Ski Jump Tournament in January, said the anthem is meaningful to her family. Her father, Hanif Sidi, grew up in Kenya and came to the United States in 1998.

“It’s important to my dad, so it’s important to me,” she said. “It is important for my dad, because he is an immigrant, and it is just really cool to be able to listen to his daughter sing the national anthem in a country he is not originally from.”

Ayanna Sidi, 14, of Barrington Hills, poses with Milwaukee Bucks mascot Bango on the night she sang the national anthem before the team's game at the Fiserv Forum. Courtesy of Nicole Sidi
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