President Obama’s speech in Roanoke became a national issue for a time. But before the president delivered his speech in front of Fire Station No. 1, Roanoke resident and Rocky Mount native Meg Harlow sang the national anthem. We contacted Harlow, a part-time piano and voice teacher and sometime wedding singer, to ask her about how she got the gig and what she thought of the experience.
cutNscratch: You graduated Radford with a music degree. What was the hardest part of school, and how does it compare to singing the national anthem for the president?
MH: The hardest part of music school was the amount of time I was required to practice, in order to learn so many new pieces in such a short period of time. Coming into that kind of lifestyle from high school was a shock – before college, I usually would prepare a few large pieces throughout the course of one year, and suddenly I was expected to do the same thing in one semester. As for singing the national anthem, I’ve essentially been singing the Star-Spangled Banner for 20 years. This kind of performance, however, was extra nerve-inducing, seeing as how it wasn’t just my usual crowd of friends and family hearing me!
cNs: Are you now or have you been in any local bands? I’ve seen you at shows, but have never seen you perform.
MH: I’ve been in bands before (not currently, though), but I must admit, it’s difficult working musically with others when you’ve spent your entire life doing music by yourself (solo performances). There is also such a broad spectrum of music I enjoy singing and playing, that it’s difficult for me to pick just one genre and stick to it. I tried to start a Dragonforce-inspired band with a couple of friends about 5 years or so ago, but it didn’t work out; I was disappointed, because being able to completely rock out both my classical piano AND voice, while being backed by an amazing drummer, was one of the best experiences in my conscious musical memory.
cNs: You said they were looking for a local singer and a Democrat for this? How did they find you?
MH: One of my Roanoke and RU friends, a political science major named Jordan Butler, recently took a job with the DCCC as a Field Director for the 18th Congressional District in Florida. Apparently he received a phone call wanting to know if he knew of any young person back in Roanoke who was a classically trained vocalist, and, yes, preferably a Democrat. He gave them my name and number.
cNs: Did you get to meet the president or did he acknowledge you in any way?
MH: Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet him, or get an acknowledgement. That is completely okay, though! He has the weight of the entire country (and the world, to a large extent) resting on his shoulders, in addition to having to worry about running a re-election campaign! I believe I’d try to keep my mind on communicating important issues to the citizens, as well.