Possessing one of the most recognizable Star Spangled Banner voices in the country, Todd Angilly has worked hard to get in front of audiences everywhere. Who better to tell of his fantastic journey than his old college fraternity brother, Nate Graziano?
I met Todd Angilly in 1993 when we were befuddled freshman assigned to the same dorm at Plymouth State College.
As it turned out, we both grew up in Rhode Island—Rhode Islanders are a fraternity in their own right—and quickly clicked as friends. We then pledged the same fraternity and became brothers at Sigma Phi Epsilon, and later roommates in a frat house that should’ve been condemned.
As roommates, Todd and I spent many afternoons listening to Harry Chapin and Frank Zappa albums, sharing our respective dreams. As an English major, I was going to be the next Jack Kerouac, traversing the American night in an old jalopy; and as a music major, Todd was going to sing tenor in an opera house in Italy like Luciano Pavarotti or Placido Domingo.
The young dream big.
However, while I could write serviceably, Todd could really sing.
Good Lord, could Todd sing. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that he is a born talent, a natural performer.
So when Todd Angilly succeeded the iconic Rene Rancourt as The Boston Bruin’s national anthem singer in 2019, no one who knew Todd was surprised. We saw it as the inevitable ascension for this gifted musician.
Todd and I are now middle-aged and busy with our respective families and careers, and we’re catching up for the first time in years at my neighborhood pizza joint in Manchester, N.H. As it turns out, these Rhode Island boys never skipped a beat.
Will this profile end up reading like a puff-piece?
You bet. Todd Angilly is one of the best guys I know and still—after all these years, falling in and out of touch—one of my best friends.
“A Star Is Born”
Born and raised in Warwick, R.I., Angilly is the middle child of Robert and the late-Sandra Angilly’s four sons, a family blessed with musical sensibilities.
Sandra Angilly was formally trained in singing through her church and had her sons singing in choirs at an early age.
Angilly said he also distinctly remembers belting out songs in the back seat of his mother’s Cadillac, harmonizing with his brothers to the tapes playing on the car radio by some of his early influences, such as Elvis Presley, Wayne Newton, Paul Anka, Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
Then, in second grade, a music teacher discovered his God-gifted ability when Angilly—trying to cut-up for classmates—mimicked her singing in class. She called him to the front of the room and asked him to repeat the mimicry.
And a star was born. “That’s when it really started to explode,” Angilly said.
By the time he was attending Warwick Veteran’s High School, Angilly was threading the needle between disparate worlds. While the captain of the varsity football team, Angilly also performed in the school band and was cast in all the plays.
“This was never a really popular combination,” said Angilly.
Before his final football game on Thanksgiving Day of his senior year, donning shoulder pads and a blue and yellow jersey, Angilly sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the only time in his high school career.
In retrospect, it makes for an interesting harbinger.
“Becoming a Performer and Enduring Hard Times”
It’s 1995, and nearing midnight on a Saturday as a couple hundred Plymouth State College students stand in the basement of Sigma Phi Epsilon’s fraternity house.
The crowd is waiting for Todd Angilly, who just finished an eight-hour shift cooking at The Italian Farmhouse in Plymouth, and now he’s scooting back to the frat house where he lives on a first floor bedroom with his roommate—the writer of this piece.
Angilly arrives in a t-shirt stained with marinara sauce and sings the national anthem at midnight to an adoring crowd. “It was something unique,” he said, reflecting on those midnight gigs. “Who else was doing that back then?”
And even the most tone-deaf flannel-clad kid can tell this guy is a special talent.
Angilly left Warwick, R.I., for Plymouth State College—which is now Plymouth State University—with the sole intent of becoming a high school music teacher.
“I wanted to become a teacher, move back home and teach and coach football. Then, you know, develop a heart problem and die like any other guy,” Angilly joked.
But the fates—and Angilly possesses a fervent faith in a divine plan—had other things in mind.
When Angilly arrived at Plymouth State, his professors encouraged him to audition for the shows the college was producing. His freshman year, Angilly auditioned for a musical and was cast in a role with a solo performance.
By his senior year at college, the culmination of his efforts resulted in Angilly performing the lead role of Fredric in the school’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance.
“There’s no way I would’ve become a performer if they hadn’t cast me for in shows,” Angilly said. “It immediately clicked, and I loved it. Performing was like a drug. It was really cool.”
After graduating from Plymouth State, Angilly was accepted into the opera program at the prestigious New England Conservatory in Boston where he continued to hone his immense talents.
It was here that Angilly delved into the cerebral side of the musical arts. “You had to research the text in the songs to really know what you were singing about,” he said.
However, due to financial strains, Angilly left the conservatory two classes short of a master’s degree in music education and decided to try his hand at professional auditions, a process that nearly decimated The Boston Anthem Singer.
Like many people competing in the fine arts, Angilly—who didn’t fit the svelte image contrived for many stage performers—was often patently rejected at auditions. “I always felt like I had the talent, but America is very cosmopolitan, going for looks first,” he said.
Discouraged, Angilly said he was “more or less” ready to quit singing when he took jobs working as a probation officer and a cook for the Boston Red Sox organization.
It was there that an opportunity singing the national anthem at Fenway Park presented itself, and the rest—to risk the cliché—was history.
“Singing to the Nation”
One day while cooking for the Red Sox players, Angilly was singing in the clubhouse at Fenway Park when the executive in charge of the pre-game ceremonies took notice and asked him if he’d be interested in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the ballpark, oblivious that the clubhouse cook had formal vocal training and informal experience performing the national anthem.
During a rain-delay at a Red Sox game versus The Seattle Mariner’s in 2000, Angilly sang the anthem for the first time. He admitted that he was besieged by nerves and felt like Mother Nature was icing him.
But his talented prevailed, and the crowd responded, and Angilly landed himself periodic gigs singing the national anthem to The Fenway Faithful.
Then America experienced one the darkest days in its history when terrorists attacked the nation on September 11, 2001. For a week following the attacks, sports shut down as a heavy-hearted country attempted to reconcile an unfathomable loss.
When baseball—which the poet Walt Whitman described as “the American game”—resumed at Fenway Park, Todd Angilly was called on to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” then “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch on the Red Sox first game after 9-11.
The next morning, Angilly went to work cooking for the New England Patriots, and the Pats’ players noticed him singing the songs on a NESN broadcast, which lead to him performing the anthem at—what was then—Sullivan Stadium.
Meanwhile, his cooking gig also led to Angilly procuring a bartending job at Ford’s Sports Deck at the TD Garden where he would meet his future-wife Alycia.
“I did the whole ‘high school thing’ and asked other people if she was single and if she liked me,” said Angilly, who now has two children, Luke and Cassandra, with Alycia.
When he stopped performing for the Red Sox and the Patriots, Angilly started singing the national anthem for The Boston Bruins as a “fill-in” performer for Rancourt while simultaneously bartending at The Sports Deck.
Still, the classically-trained singer had reservations that he needed to exorcise. “I had dreams of singing in opera houses around the world,” he said. “But where I ended up turned out to be a dream come true.”
One night in 2017, Angilly was tending the bar before a Bruins’ game when he was summoned downstairs by the coordinator for the national anthem, a woman in despair.
“She told me that the fill-in singer didn’t show, and I needed to sing,” said Angilly. “It was 6:45 p.m. and the Anthem went on at 6:55 p.m. They rushed me downstairs, handed me a suit coat, and I sang.”
The next season, Rancourt announced his retirement, and thus began what Angilly referred to as “the audition year.” Coincidentally, the Bruins would also make a deep run to the Stanley Cup finals.
During the postseason, The Bruins went solely to Angilly to perform, who would routinely sing the national anthem then rush back upstairs to The Sports Deck and bartend. His story gained national traction, and Angilly experienced his first taste of fame.
He then had the opportunity to sing at Game 7 of The Stanley Cup finals against the St. Louis Blues [the writer will refrain from editorializing on this game].
“I got to experience everything that first season. It was an experience unlike any other,” Angilly said.
The next year, Angilly got the call that would change the trajectory of his life when he was named the heir to Rancourt, the next Boston Anthem Singer.
“The goal was always to be the next Pavarotti, but then I said to myself, ‘This is going to be great. I don’t need all of that,’” he said.
Angilly got the phone call from the Bruins that he earned the position the night before the official announcement and asked to keep it under wraps until the next day when they would make it public on Fox News-Boston.
After the official announcement, Angilly’s phone blew up as he was driving into the city to sing the national anthem live at noon on a Boston country-music station then appear on the Zolak and Bertrand show on The Sports Hub 98.5 FM.
“That’s when it really hit me, and I started to cry in the car,” Angilly said.
Since becoming the Bruins’ Anthem Singer, Angilly said that he hasn’t allowed the fame go to his head, embracing his innate gift for humility.
“When you’re on the ice with 18,000 people are going nuts, it’s an honor and a privilege,” he said. “But you have to understand that management can decide one day to just start playing a recording. It could all end tomorrow.”
In fact, for Angilly, a big joy of the job stems from the community work he does, singing for the kids at organizations such as Christopher’s Haven outside Massachusetts General Hospital, who serve children diagnosed with cancer.
“Doing the community work has really been the rewarding thing for me. I’ve come to realize that little things go a long way,” he said.
As far as his future plans, Angilly wants to pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice—still his day job—and continue to teach former-inmates to find work and assimilate back into the community and become contributing members of society.
And my former-roommate, my fraternity brother and one of my best friends—the fellow kid from Rhode Island who sat across from me in a dorm room in 1993—is still making sense of his whirlwind of success.
“If you were to tell me at Plymouth State that I would one day become the Boston Anthem Singer, I would never have believed it,” he said. “But now I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
All images used with permission of Todd Angilly