By Amanda Korba, special to USTA.com
Michael Woodard remembers two things from performing the national anthem during the 2010 US Open Opening Night Ceremony: Following Gloria Estefan on stage... and being caught on the scoreboard with food in his mouth.
Woodard, 13, of Philadelphia, was one of 15 talented vocalists ages 12 and under who were selected to perform patriotic-themed songs during the 2010 US Open. The performers were selected from 258 hopefuls who auditioned at the fourth annual US Open Casting Call held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City in June 2010. Performances were conducted in front of a panel of celebrity judges, including Justin Chon, who plays Eric Yorkie in the popular "Twilight Saga" series, Ashley Roberts of the Pussycat Dolls, and actor/singer Andrew Seeley, who stars in the new television series, "Glory Daze."
Woodard had performed at the US Open for the first time the year prior, and was again chosen in 2010. However, this time he sang on a bigger stage—on the US Open’s Opening Night in front of a sold-out crowd and a national television audience.
"It was amazing to represent my country on Opening Night in front of all of those people," Woodard says. "I also got to follow Gloria Estefan on stage! She is such a legend, so I couldn’t believe it. The experience was so much more than I had expected it to be."
Woodard said that another memorable experience during Opening Night was when he was put on the big screen in Arthur Ashe Stadium following his performance.
"When I was put on the big screen, I felt like a celebrity," says Woodard, who started singing in his local church at age 5. "Everyone was cheering for me when they saw me, and it was cool. But I then realized that I had all of this food in my mouth and it took me by surprise—I definitely didn’t look that good up there. I just waved, while trying to swallow my food."
Since performing at the US Open, Woodard has seen his singing career skyrocket. Directly following the US Open, Woodard’s mom, Wanda, received a special phone call from someone who had seen a local Philadelphia feature of Michael’s experience in Flushing Meadows. The call wasn’t just any typical booking call—it was a call from the White House, asking Woodard to perform at a rally for President Barack Obama in Philadelphia.
"We couldn’t believe the White House called us," Wanda says. "It was a dream come true."
Last October, doing what he does best, Woodard belted out another performance of the national anthem in front of another large crowd, which included the President. Woodard even got to meet Obama at the rally.
"I was shocked when I was introduced to Obama," Woodard says. "I shook his hand, then leaned in and had to give him a hug."
Since the US Open, Woodard has also took place in a script reading in New York City with Cyndi Lauper, auditioned for a Disney Channel show and took first place in an amateur night at the Apollo Theater. The Apollo Theater was so impressed by Woodard’s talent that they have invited him back to perform on March 16.
With everything that Woodard has experienced so far, he doesn’t forget the importance of giving back. This past Christmas, Woodard and his mother put together a toy drive to provide toys and clothing to kids in Philadelphia. After performing a number of songs and bringing the community together, Woodard was able to provide 60 kids with toys for Christmas. The 60 kids joined Woodard on stage, singing Christmas carols and celebrating the season.
"Michael’s involvement with his toy drive literally brought tears to my eyes," says Wanda. "He has such a big heart. I am so proud of him."
Only 13, Woodard is wise beyond his years and wants young singers and young people to know that they can do anything that they set their mind to.
"Singing allows me to believe that I can be anything I want to be," Woodard says. "I have sung at so many neat places and met so many amazing people. Ever since I was young, I never gave up hope and believed that I could do it—and here I am."
For more information on Michael Woodard and to watch him perform, visit www.michaeljwoodard.com