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Hudson Teen has voice to fill stadiums

McKenna Selissen performs regularly with her band, August Blues, which includes her friends from middle school, Cavan Denning, left, and Dylan White. Submitted photo1 / 3
McKenna Selissen of Hudson sang both the National Anthem and the Canadian equivalent at a recent Milwaukee Brewers game against the Toronto Bluejays at the invitation of the Brewers. She said she doesn't look at the size of her audience like this one at Miller Park. Submitted photo2 / 3
Word is getting around about McKenna Selissen's talent. She got an opportunity to work with a songwriter from Nashville and record in a professional studio. She loves rhythm and blues and her favorite performer is Johnny Lang. Submitted photo3 / 3

To talk with McKenna Selissen, it is hard to imagine that the demure 16-year-old has a voice big enough to reach the cheap seats in a stadium as big as Milwaukee's Miller Park, but she does.

Selissen, who is a junior at Hudson High School, recently performed both the U.S. and Canadian national anthems at a Brewers game against the Toronto Bluejays. It may have been her largest venue to date but she already has performed the "Star Spangled Banner" at more than a dozen St. Paul Saints games as well as at one of the playoff games of the Minnesota Lynx, the current WNBA champions.

"That was pretty exciting, especially because it was the first time they were in the playoffs and they went onto win," said Selissen.

In addition to her sports performances, Selissen is part of August Blues, an acoustic band that includes longtime friends Cavan Denning and Dylan White. The three regularly play at a Twin Cities coffee shop, J Arthurs, and have done multiple benefits. The band will perform at Hudson Bagel in the Prairie View Center on Aug. 4.

Selissen describes herself as shy, something her mother Therese confirms and says they have in common. But she has always loved to sing. "I've been doing it around the house since I was 3. And when I got into school, I loved choir and being in plays at The Phipps and in school."

It was HHS choir director Kari Heisler who first approached Selissen about singing the national anthem at a school event. That led to singing it at other benefits and finally to singing for the Saints last summer. "They just kept calling, asking her back. And their games are so fun," said Therese.

While she doesn't get paid to perform, the Saints have given her tickets and merchandise for her efforts. Selissen's father Dave isn't as shy as his wife or daughter and it was him who sent the Brewers a video of her performing. When the call came and she was asked to perform both anthems, she was happy to oblige.

But did her biggest audience ever intimidate her? Selissen said she doesn't think about the size of the crowd before she performs and doesn't even like to look around much as she sings. "I don't get very nervous and I'm pretty comfortable singing. I think I'm getting a little more confident the more I do it."

Her mother gets nervous enough for both of them. "I can't watch her perform. Luckily her dad can."

Selissen said she would like to sing professionally but she also intends to pursue a career that compliments her talent. "I would like to be a music therapist and work with children with disabilities."

She and the band have been asked to perform in the Minnesota Children's hospitals in-house studio for patients there.

Performances by Selissen and August Blues can be found on YouTube at mckennaclare. White is the son of Dee and Chris White of Hudson. Denning is the son of Patrice and Sean Denning, also of Hudson.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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