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LI kids to sing on U.S. Open stage

From left to right Katie Garthe, 11, of

From left to right Katie Garthe, 11, of Miller Place, Frenie Acoba, 10, of Kings Park and Brandon Gicquel, 10, of Huntington getting ready to sing at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows. (August 26, 2012) Credit: Steven Sunshine

Move over Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross. The next singers to hit the stage at the U.S. Open are . . . kids.

Three Long Island children will join the ranks of such music icons when they perform on one of the world's premier stages for tennis during the two-week tournament.

The kids are among a group of 12 vocalists, all ages 12 and younger, who were selected from across the country to perform patriotic solos between the night tennis sessions. With the anticipated capacity crowd of 23,771 people in Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, it's one of the most distinguished stages in sports.

"Singing at the U.S. Open where a lot of great and phenomenal singers have sung" is "a pleasure," said Brandon Gicquel, 10, of Huntington, who will perform Sept. 3. "I feel pretty excited. Actually, I feel a little nervous."

More than 150 children auditioned earlier this summer at the sixth annual U.S. Open Casting Call in front of a panel of judges at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. "There were a lot of really good girls there," said Katie Garthe, 11, of Miller Place.

Katie, who performs Wednesday, said she was "not nervous" to sing "America, the Beautiful," which each Long Island child will sing.

"The more people, the more confidence," she said. "I'm most looking forward to going out there and singing about my beautiful country."

This is the third consecutive year that Frenie Acoba, 10, of Kings Park, has performed at the U.S. Open. She will sing on Sept. 5.

"Sometimes in the beginning, I would have butterflies in my belly," Frenie said. "But when I saw and heard the crowd applauding, I felt like I was really inspired by them . . . It just makes me want to push further."

The United States Tennis Association first allowed children to sing between the night sessions in 2007, officials said.

The road to the big stage is filled with hard work.

Brandon has acted in "Peter Pan" and other plays at Holy Child Academy in Old Westbury, and practices vocal warm-ups with a pitch pipe.

Singing since age 5, Frenie has performed at New York Islanders games and was on a Broadway national tour last year for Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific."

For Katie, a lover of Julie Andrews, performing in "The Sound of Music" at North Fork Community Theatre and "Les Misérables" at Gateway Playhouse have been highlights.

All of the singers plan to take in tennis matches, some -- like most U.S. Open fans -- keeping their fingers crossed to see famous tennis athletes.

"Hopefully, I get to meet Roger Federer," Brandon said. "He's my favorite tennis player."

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