Julia Dale will be the littlest person on the court, by far, when the Miami Heat plays its second-round games. But LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be happy to see her because the Heat has an 18-2 record when she shows up.
Dale, 12, is the pint-sized singer with the big-time pipes who belts out The Star-Spangled Banner at Heat games and other South Florida sporting events. When fans see her for the first time, they are often astounded at the booming voice coming out of her 4-foot-3 body.
She gets a particularly loud ovation when she gets to the “…land of the free’’ line, her favorite part of the anthem.
“When I get to the word ‘free,’ I go into my high voice, which shows my range, and I really look forward to that part every time I sing it because I get a loud cheer at that moment,’’ said Dale, a sixth-grader at Indian Ridge Middle School in Davie. “Even though the anthem is really hard to sing because of its high range, I love it because it’s such a patriotic, powerful song and it makes me very proud.’’
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Dale’s love of The Star-Spangled Banner began in kindergarten at Flamingo Elementary. Like all schoolchildren, she had to sing the anthem every morning after the Pledge of Allegiance. While most of her classmates mumbled through the difficult words and failed to hit the high notes, Dale made it her mission to learn the words and sing the anthem loud and proud.
“I was definitely louder than the other kids,’’ she said, giggling. “To be honest, singing the anthem every morning was one of the best parts of my day. I had so much love for signing even then. It’s so great to know what your passion is at such a young age.’’
Before long, she was signing the anthem at school assemblies and at age 7, she was invited to sing it at a Marlins game.
“That was definitely one of the best days of my life,’’ she said. “When I stood on the field for the first time, I was like, ‘Wow. Now, I feel like I’ve made it.’ I felt everything coming together. It’s indescribable how it felt being out there. I was nervous, but so proud and excited to be there.’’
Since then, Dale has performed the anthem at dozens of Marlins and Heat games, at a NASCAR race at the Homestead Speedway, at the Sony Open tennis tournament on Key Biscayne, at boxing matches and at Fort Lauderdale Strikers games. She is booked to sing at all of the Heat’s remaining playoff games this season.
Dale’s mother, Susie, noticed her daughter’s love of singing very early. When she was 2, Julia loved to watch The Wizard of Oz and sing along. She also sang along with Barney, the giant purple character from the TV show. Her grandmother bought her DVDs of My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music, and little Julia was hooked.
“I could sit her there for two hours and she’d be so happy, singing along with the movies,’’ Susie Dale said.
Her love of musical theater grew, and now Julia acts, sings and dances with The Performance Project Theater Company. She had the lead role in Annie and Madeline’s Christmas, and she played Grizabella in Cats. Twice a month, her mother drives her to Kendall, where she trains with vocal coach Jeanette Hopkins, who has helped her with breathing, range and control.
Dale wasn’t much of a sports fan before she started performing pregame anthems, but she has grown to love basketball. She said one of her biggest thrills was the first time James fist-bumped her as they walked onto the court together.
“I felt so short next to him, like I was up to his knee, it was crazy,’’ she said, her high-pitched voice getting even higher with each word. “When he bumped fists with me, his hand was giant. He probably didn’t even feel my fist because it’s so little. I feel so lucky to have experiences like that, to meet someone like LeBron. Even though we’re so different in size, we both want to perform our best out there.’’