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Turlock teen finalist in national anthem singing contest
singing contest
Turlock High School student Makenna Boutelle sings the national anthem at the Veterans Day ceremony this past November at Central Park. Boutelle is one of 10 finalists for the Foster Farms Bowl Oh Say, Can You Sing? contest. - photo by Journal file photo

Makenna Boutelle is no stranger to the stage. The Turlock High School senior is already a past winner of her school’s own singing competition, “THS Idol,” and was cast as the lead in the Turlock Youth Performing Arts’ summer production of “Bring It On, The Musical.” Now, she has her sights set on an even bigger venue as she prepares to audition as one of 10 finalists for the Foster Farms Bowl “Oh Say, Can You Sing?” contest.

Boutelle is competing for the opportunity to sing the national anthem in front of 70,000 frenzied college football fans before the upcoming Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’s Stadium, and come Monday, she will do her best to impress a panel of judges in San Francisco. She was selected as a finalist after deciding to submit a video to the competition of herself singing – just one of multiple opportunities that have come her way since winning “THS Idol” during her junior year, she said.

“I was able to sing the national anthem at this year’s Veterans Day ceremony, so I kind of saw this competition as my next project,” said Boutelle.

In the past, Boutelle had only performed at her school’s sporting events, she said. In fact, the video audition she submitted was a rendition of the national anthem that she had sung at a boys basketball game. Her “THS Idol” victory, which came via a stellar performance of “No One” by Alicia Keys, encouraged the young singer to begin taking her talent more seriously.

Monday’s final audition for the “Oh Say, Can You Sing?” contest will be her biggest test yet.

“I’m really going to focus while I’m singing and make sure I’m using the right technique. When I sing at basketball games in front of my friends it’s just for fun, but this is a little more serious,” said Boutelle. “If I win, I’m not sure how I’ll feel about singing in front of so many people – I hope it won’t affect me – but I’m not nervous for the audition on Monday because I like intimate settings like that.”

Boutelle knows just what to expect courtesy of her fellow THS Bulldog Felisha Dias, who was a finalist for the competition in 2015 and eventually won the contest in 2016. The pair are both on the tennis team and are drama classmates, which has led them to become good friends. They also share similar paths, with Dias having won “THS Idol” as well before ultimately being named the “Oh Say, Can You Sing?” champion last year.

The singing competition was just one more thing for the two to bond over, said Boutelle.

“She let me know about the audition process and what to expect, so that was really helpful,” said Boutelle.

Boutelle and nine other finalists from the Bay Area and Central Valley will face off for not only the opportunity to show off their singing pipes at the bowl game, set for Dec. 27, but also for the opportunity to give back to their communities. The winner of the singing competition will also be able to choose a charity of his or her choice to be gifted 1,000 meals from Foster Farms.

United Samaritans Foundation was the benefactor of Dias’ singing efforts last year, but Boutelle hasn’t decided who she will give back to should she need to make a choice.

“This opportunity means a lot,” she said. “Using my talent to give back is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to make a difference.”