Turlock High School student Felisha Dias has never taken a singing lesson, but that didn’t stop her from winning the Foster Farms Bowl “Oh Say, Can You Sing?” contest. Thanks to her victory, the 16-year-old has been awarded the opportunity to sing the national anthem in front of 70,000 frenzied football fans before the upcoming bowl game at Levi’s Stadium.
“I was extremely surprised, grateful and overwhelmed,” said Dias. “I get to sing in front of so many people and on TV, neither of which I’ve done before, which is incredible.”
Dias first began singing at age seven as part of the children’s choir at her church, Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Turlock. Since then, music and singing have become an integral part of her life.
“I’m drawn to music,” said Dias. “If you don’t have words to say or if you can’t speak the same language as someone, music is universal and can be understood and loved by anyone you meet.”
The second time was the charm for Dias, who was selected as a finalist for the Foster Farms Bowl singing competition last year, but did not win. Coming up short last year only fueled her desire to take home the crown at this year’s audition, she said.
“Having that goal to reach for definitely made me want it that much more,” said Dias.
The difference between last year’s competition and her most recent audition? Preparation and time, said Dias.
“I think I was just more prepared,” she said. “As I grow older and my voice matures, I feel like my voice is getting stronger so maybe that had something to do with it.”
Dias, along with 10 other finalists from the Bay Area and Central Valley, travelled to the hotel Nikko in San Francisco on Monday to audition live in front of a panel of judges, which included former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark, 49ers Vice President and Executive Producer Robert Alberino Jr., FOX Sports’ college football analyst Joel Klatt and Johnathan Foster from Foster Farms. She got the call that she was a finalist after posting a video of herself singing on YouTube as part of the first round of the competition.
Although Dias has previously performed at college sporting events and minor league baseball games, she said the audition was the most nerve-wrecking performance yet.
“I was definitely nervous,” said Dias. “The national anthem is a difficult song to sing. I didn’t want to mess up the words, and I wanted to hit the high note well and execute the song to my highest capability.”
She did just that, impressing the panel of judges enough to be declared the winner of the competition.
“Their reaction was for the most part positive,” said Dias of the judge’s panel. “I think they enjoyed having so many young people singing this powerful song for the love of their country.”
In addition to winning a spot at Levi’s Stadium to sing the national anthem, Dias also was able to choose a charity of her choice to be gifted 1,000 meals from Foster Farms. Dias selected United Samaritans Foundation in Turlock to receive the donation.
“It’s really great that I can support my home community in such a major way,” said Dias. “One thousand meals is just incredible.”
Next, Dias will travel to the Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara on Dec. 28, where she hopes to wow the crowd and get the game started on a good note with her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“I think it’s a great honor to sing the national anthem for my country,” said Dias. “We’re able to be free and do all the things we can do in this country, and just to honor that through singing is amazing.”
The 2016 Foster Farms Bowl will feature teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences. The game will be televised live on Fox with a 5:30 p.m. kickoff. Foster Farms will donate one meal to local hunger relief organizations for every Foster Farms Bowl ticket purchased. For more information about the game and tickets, visit www.FosterFarmsBowl.com.