Lauralton Hall singer earns her way to VFW National Anthem finals

Colette Burke poses in Milford, Conn. July 7, 2022.

Colette Burke poses in Milford, Conn. July 7, 2022.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — Colette Burke’s years of singing in front of large audiences has truly paid off.

The 17-year-old Burke — who has sung the National Anthem at numerous events over the years — is representing Connecticut in the VFW National Anthem contest after winning the VFW Auxiliary Department of Connecticut 2021-22 Get Excited for Red, White and Blue! National Anthem singing contest.

“Music has always been part of my life,” she said. “Even if it’s not something I continue to focus on as a career, it’s something that’s always going to be part of me.”

Burke, from Sandy Hook, is a senior at Academy of Our Lady of Mercy, Lauralton Hall, in Milford but has been singing since she was young.

“I was three years old when my parents heard me singing in the shower,” said Burke. “I wanted to do voice training, so we started that when I was in the fifth grade.”

When Burke was in sixth grade, she joined the Fairfield County Children’s Choir, which was audition-based.

“I didn’t even know if I wanted to do it, but we went to the audition, and they told me that I was in,” she said.

Burke has been part of that group for seven years now.

Since then music has remained a big part of her life, from singing in her local school’s choir to being part of the school band.

The National Anthem contest consists of two divisions: K-8 and 9-12. Contestants begin by competing at the local VFW Auxiliary Level. The winner from each auxiliary advances to the district competition with the winners at that advancing to the state competition. The state’s winner in each grade division goes onto nationals.

“For the past couple of years, the VFW didn’t have anyone to sing in the National Anthem for several of their celebrations,” she said. “I reached out telling them that I would come out and sing and told them I noticed they didn’t have anyone singing.”

As Burke and her family started doing more research, they found out about the contest, and she decided to enter.

“I chose to put in my audition video and see how it goes, without any thought of winning, I just wanted to do it,” she said. “It took us about 20 tries to get it right, and we went with the third video because we felt that showcased my talent the best.”

It took a couple of weeks for the local VFW to get back to Burke. They told her she had won and they were going to send it to regionals.

“Regionals sent a letter back to me, and that took another couple of weeks, and within the same period, I got the letter from the state VFW, and they sent me that I had won the state and I would be pushed to nationals,” she said.

When Burke started receiving the letters, she said she was surprised.

“I don’t know how many people participated in the contest, I do know that no matter what, there is someone better,” she said. “So I couldn’t believe I won this, and they thought my voice was good for this song.”

Burke sees herself as more of a soloist, as she has performed the National Anthem by herself at different events.

“I’ve sung the National Anthem at the Tampa Bay Rays, New England Revolution, Hartford Yard Goats, University of New Hampshire, Sun n’ Fun Aerospace Expo and more,” she said. “It’s an honor to sing at any event. It’s amazing every time, and no matter how many times you do it or who it’s for, it feels exactly like the first time.”

One of the ways sports teams have reached out to Burke is through Instagram, as she posts different clips of her singing.

“I started it this year in March. First, I posted a couple of clips of me singing last summer. Then I kept on posting more recent events,” she said. “That came around because we had looked at other Instagram pages of other singers, and we thought it was a good idea to have an Instagram page to get myself out there.”

“It’s also something I send teams and people to show them I do this professionally and that I am a trained singer,” Burke added. “Some sports teams have reached out to me on Instagram like Bourne Braves and Wareham Gatemen baseball teams contact me over Instagram. I also started posting other songs that I do, not only National Anthems.”

Although singing is something Burke is not sure she wants to do as a career, she does want to keep it in her day-to-day life, she said.

“Whether it’s majoring or minoring in music while in college, or doing things in the music department, I really don’t know,” she said. “I want to keep it. No matter what, it’s going to stay with me.”