Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Olivia Gawet has been chosen to sing the national anthem Sunday on Vermont Day at Fenway Park. Gawet lives in West Rutland.
West Rutland-based soloist Olivia Gawet said the events that shocked Boston this week changed her feelings toward her upcoming performance at Fenway Park.
The 29-year-old said it is a huge honor to be selected by the Boston Red Sox to perform the national anthem during Vermont Day on Sunday, but since Monday’s explosions at the Boston Marathon “it feels different.”
“It’s hard to put into words,” Gawet said Thursday. “Just seeing the senseless violence and at the same time the outpouring of love from strangers. It makes me very proud to be going to sing and honor the nation. It is really the ‘home of the brave.’”
She added, tearing up, “We’ve seen that on Monday and we’ve seen it before. It means so much more. I know it’s going to be difficult on Sunday.”
Gawet takes center stage at the historic park at 1:30 p.m. It will be her second trip to Fenway.
“The first time I went was with my grandparents. I was 6 or 7,” Gawet said. “My grandmother was a huge Red Sox fan. ... I have been thinking about her a lot.”
The soloist was invited to perform earlier this month and she thought it was a joke at first.
“It came April 1,” she said. “It being April Fools’ Day — needless to say, I was a little skeptical.”
After re-reading the email from Dan Lyons, manager of entertainment for the Red Sox — it looked too legitimate to be fake — she called him.
She said Lyons had received a DVD of her singing and liked it very much.
“He tracked me down,” Gawet said. “It’s so awesome. I was so surprised. I could not believe it.”
Gawet started singing as a soloist when she was 10 years old at Christ the King School in Rutland. She said she always loved to sing around the house and in the school choir but never gave much thought to being a soloist.
To prepare, Gawet did a small radio circuit tour singing live in the mornings. She said it really helped her get ready for a live audience, especially with the last part of the anthem because she always gets emotional.
“I try to visualize what it would be like,” she said. “It’s the biggest that I have sung for.”
After the Boston Marathon bombings, Gawet wants to be strong but knows it will not be easy to do.
“But I know I can make it through,” she said. “It’s just a great honor.”
Henry Burke, a 13-year-old from Cabot, will perform “God Bless America” in the seventh inning. The 1:30 p.m. game will be shown on the New England Sports Network.
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