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Burns excels at singing anthem

Published 11:29am Friday, December 7, 2012


It’s a good thing music lifts spirits because singing before an arena of 20,000 people staring at you feels like a “bottomless pit.”

Norm Burns, of Howard Township, has found himself in many such situations, from a televised March 5, 2003, game between the NBA Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks to a 2002 Jacksonville Suns minor league baseball game, where former Los Angeles Dodgers manager turned scout Tommy Lasorda complimented his rendition of the national anthem.

“When you’ve got 20,000 people looking at you, if you forget the words, add notes that don’t belong or you’re off-key, there’s no one to back you up. Any mistake you make will be noticed by any and everyone,” Burns told the Dowagiac Rotary Club Thursday at Elks Lodge 889.

Burns, 60, who has been singing for 46 years since high school in Cleveland, can often be heard starting sporting events, whether it’s the South Bend Silver Hawks or the University of Notre Dame, where he provides “The Star-Spangled Banner” for basketball, baseball, soccer and field hockey.

“My senior year, I was president of the choral club,” said Burns, who has expanded his repertoire since then, including through his “music enhancement” business.

“I sing at 20 nursing homes and assisted living facilities for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

“I moved to Michigan in 2004 and auditioned for Notre Dame in 2006. I lived in Jacksonville, Fla., for 25 years. We all have a spirit and it always yearns to come out and sing, whether you have a good voice or not,” Burns said. “My goal is to encourage people to let that voice come out. Singing can keep you healthy. Singing helps people with asthma and bronchitis because of the deep breathing involved. Your diaphragm gets a workout. Singing makes people happy, which reduces stress. It makes your immune system work better. For those who are aging, singing helps them remember times in their lives when songs meant something powerful. They remember the words if you tickle their mind. More people take part in choral singing than in any other performing art. Most singers say singing in a choir builds social confidence.”

Burns worked as a counselor in psychiatric nursing for 20 years.

He served 10 years in the Navy.

“When I lived in Jacksonville, I attempted to sing for the (NFL) Jaguars,” said Burns, who attends Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Silver Creek Township and works part-time for Yazel-Clark Chapel. “I am still working on trying to do the Chicago Bears and Bulls and Indiana Pacers.”


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