Shortly after Amanda Athens steps off the stage after helping to lead worship at her church in Flowery Branch, she oftentimes heads to Atlanta to sing for an entirely different crowd.
Athens, 39, who’s lived in Hall County her entire life, is the primary national anthem singer for Atlanta United FC, so whenever there’s a home match, she’s there at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, singing in front of an average 50,000-plus people.
“I don't get nervous,” Athens said. “I would say the first couple times I did, because it was new for me, but I don't get nervous until after and I think it's more adrenaline, like, ‘Oh my gosh, that really just happened.’”
Athens remembers singing since she was young. Her mother tells her she was singing as soon as she could put words together. She would sing at church and even had a few solos in programs the church put on.
“I just loved music,” Athens said. “And in middle school, when you could start choosing if you wanted to be in band or chorus, I chose chorus. I absolutely loved it.”
She continued chorus and honed her craft throughout high school at West Hall.
Amanda Athens singing the national anthem
Tim Gale, who was the choral director at West Hall when Athens attended and still is to this day, has seen her grow and is impressed with all she’s accomplished.
“I’m pretty pumped up, honestly,” Gale said. “I heard her that first season and it brought tears to my eyes, honestly. It’s fun to hear one of my former students doing something fun and exciting like that.”
Athens started her gig with Atlanta United back in 2017, the club’s first-ever season. She had sent in a video of her performing the national anthem at a Road Atlanta event to the entertainment department with the Atlanta Falcons. While the Falcons didn’t have a spot for her, Athens said they reached back out to her, offering a chance to sing for Atlanta United.
“She emailed me and said they had an opportunity for me on June 24 to sing for the Atlanta United soccer match at Bobby Dodd Stadium,” Athens said. “It just so happens that that's my birthday. So the first time I ever got to sing for Atlanta United was on my birthday.”
She sang at two more matches that season, including the club’s first match in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The next season, she shared the role with one other singer and this season, she’s taken over as the primary singer.
“I’ve always been a big soccer person,” said Gale, who coached the West Hall soccer team for some time. “Seeing Atlanta United have success is a real treat and Amanda singing the national anthem is just icing on the cake.”
Even though Gale is teaching one of Athens’ daughters in chorus this year, he didn’t know she was singing for Atlanta United until somebody told him about it, so he reached out to her after he heard the news.
“I’ve kind of reconnected with Amanda because now she’s one of my chorus moms,” Gale said, laughing.
Family is what has driven Athens to continue doing what she loves — singing. She said she wouldn’t be able to step in front of that crowd in Atlanta and sing in front of the rowdy supporter section without their encouragement.
Her parents, Amy and Ted Simmons, her boyfriend, Raphael Martinez, and her daughters, Emma and Addison, are her own supporters section.
Sometimes, they get to go with her to matches. It’s not a paid gig, but she gets tickets and food while there. She would likely do it even if she didn’t get those things, though.
“It's very humbling,” Athens said. “I know that it's not because of me that I can do any of this. I give all the credit to God for giving me the talent he's given me and I've always wanted to share that. Being able to sing a song that represents our country and what it stands for is just exciting.”
That’s her favorite part about it. She simply gets to sing and do what she loves to do. She knows it’s not a small thing she’s a part of, so she tries to take in every surreal moment.
“I've always dreamed of singing,” Athens said. “And if this is the avenue that God has put in front of me to do that, then I'm OK with that, because I get to do what I love to do.”