September 04, 2013 - Jeffrey Siarto is hoping his golden voice will earn the Oxford Fire Department a $10,000 grant.
Oxford Fire Sgt. Jeffrey Siarto is hoping enough folks will vote for him on the Comercia Cares Facebook page, so he can win a $10,000 grant for his department and sing the National Anthem at the Detroit Tigers Sept. 22 game against the Chicago White Sox. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
The 53-year-old Oxford resident is one of 10 finalists in the Home of the Brave National Anthem Singing Contest, sponsored by Comerica Bank.
To win the $10,000, Siarto, who's a paid-on-call sergeant with the fire department, must receive the most votes on the Comerica Cares Facebook page. Voting is open to the public now through Saturday, Sept. 14.
He's competing against five police officers and four other firefighters from agencies in Auburn Hills, Detroit, Ferndale and Hartland along with the Oakland County Sheriff's Department.
"I appreciate the fact that Comerica is doing something like this to honor the police and firefighters out there," Siarto said. "Especially nowadays, when people are being asked to do more for less."
In addition to money for his department, the winner will be given the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at Comerica Park before the Detroit Tigers take the field for the Sept. 22 game against the Chicago White Sox.
The winner, which will be announced Sept. 18, will also receive 40 tickets to that game.
"I'm just looking forward to the opportunity," Siarto said. "I hope it comes true."
Siarto, who's lived in Oxford since 1983, is no stranger to the vocal arts.
"I've been singing all my life," he said.
Back when he attended Lahser High School, Siarto starred in some musical productions.
"I played the king in 'The King and I' and John the Baptist in 'Godspell,'" he said.
Siarto, who graduated in 1977, also sang in the school choir, was a percussionist with the band and sang with a group called the Knight Singers, which consisted of four men and four women.
"It was pretty much like a combined barber shop quartet," he said.
His love of music and his talent for it is something he inherited from his parents.
His mother, Evelyn, was one of the famous Rockettes. She performed at Radio City Music Hall in New York City during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
"She's still quite the dancer," he said. "She just turned 80."
Siarto's late father, Andrew, was a self-taught pianist who also enjoyed singing.
"I grew up listening and singing to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. – the classics," he said. "I never got away from them. I could sing that stuff all day long."
Siarto noted he does an impression of Sammy Davis, Jr.
These days, Siarto continues to exercise his pipes by singing for events like Wreaths Across America and recording CDs filled with Christmas songs, which he gives away to friends.
If Siarto, who works as the system support manager for Star EMS in Pontiac, wins this contest, it will be his second time singing the National Anthem in Comerica Park. He did it about three years ago after sending in an audition tape to the Detroit Tigers.
"It's quite overwhelming to stand out there on the pitcher's mound in the middle of that stadium and sing," he said. "It's an awesome experience."
When it comes to singing the National Anthem (also known as the Star-Spangled Banner), Siarto is a "traditionalist." He doesn't believe in doing all the personal embellishments that some singers do during their performances.
"I like singing it the way it's written," he said. "I don't think that song needs that at all. It should be sung the way it was written."
Siarto admitted the National Anthem is not an easy song to perform.
"It's got a large range to it," he explained. "When you start out, early on, it's low and then when you get towards the tail end of it, you have to be able to hit the (high) notes. But if you don't have a broad range, it's a hard song to sing."
When he's not busy singing, Siarto enjoys helping make Oxford a safer place through his role as a paid-on-call member of the fire department. He's served since 2004.
"I'm proud of the people I work with. I work with a great group of people," he said.
Prior to the fire department, Siarto served with the Oxford Police Department for 17 years.
"They were just starting a cadet program (in Oxford) and I was one of the first two cadets on the police department back in 1978," he said.
At the time, he wasn't old enough for the police academy – he was 19 and you had to be 21 – so he mostly did ride-alongs with officers.
Then in 1981, he graduated from the academy and became a part-time patrolman, a position he held until 1995.
Siarto has been married to his wife Jill for nearly 31 years, has two grown sons, Jeffrey and Jason, and is expecting his first grandchild in November.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.