Over nine seasons, no one person has sung the national anthem at Sounders FC matches more than Dr. Stephen Newby. The long-time resident of Seattle has sung the anthem well over 100 times, including at the club’s inaugural match in 2009. And anyone who has seen Dr. Newby perform – leading 40,000+ supporters in full voice moments before kickoff – can immediately see the pride he feels in representing his club and country.
“We are a community doing this together,” says Dr. Newby of leading the national anthem. “This is the hymn of our nation. I want to represent our nation well, I want to represent our community well.”
This month, Dr. Newby will perform the national anthem at CenturyLink Field for the final time as the club’s primary anthem singer. The Seattle Pacific University professor wants to spend more time with his family, but it’s important to note that this is not a goodbye, it’s a “see you later.”
“It’s not that I’m stepping away for good,” Dr. Newby says. “I’m going to come back. It’s just going to be on a less frequent basis. I want to spend time with my son and my wife. This will be my son’s last year in high school and he runs track and I need to be a little more present. My son’s calendar is my calendar.”
Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Dr. Newby received his doctorate in Music Composition from the University of Michigan in 1994. He currently teaches composition classes, worship and the theology of music at SPU where he has been since 2004.
Despite his extensive experience singing the national anthem at CenturyLink Field one thing has not changed: He still gets the pre-match jitters.
“I don’t take it lightly,” he says. “It’s almost as if – and it’s not militaristic – it’s an important discipline to be able to lead this group in the anthem and I don’t take it lightly. After I pray and after I breathe, it goes away.”
Working with Sounders FC has introduced Dr. Newby to people from all walks of life and professions and helped him understand the diligence required to put on a matchday experience that the club takes so much pride in.
“I’ve gotten to know so many people behind-the-scenes from elevator workers to chefs, cooks, waiters and waitresses, security people, ball boys and sound engineers. It takes a big family community to put this thing on every time we gather together.”
While the club, fans and everyone who knows Dr. Newby will be sad to see him move on from his regular matchday duties, his optimism and compassion have undoubtedly left a meaningful mark on those who have been around him over the last nine seasons.
“Maybe one day I can return at a higher frequency but where I am in my life I really want to be able to spend more time with my family and follow my son around with his track career.”
For his many contributions to the club, Dr. Newby has been selected to receive the club’s Golden Scarf, an honor given to those who have made a significant impact on Seattle and the local soccer community. As Sounders FC fans can attest, his impact on matchday has been indelible. While we may not see – or hear – him as often, when he does return to CenturyLink Field fans will know they’re in for a moving, heartfelt performance.