DOWNERS GROVE – As one of her friends said, Downers Grove resident Nancy Belda has a beautiful voice, and when there is a singing role she wants, she gets it.
Her most recent performance took a more tenacious effort than usual for her to land, though – singing the National Anthem at the Aug. 12 Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field.
For Belda, the opportunity fulfilled a lifelong dream inspired by her dad, and the culmination of more than three years of effort.
Belda's mother grew up on Ashland Avenue, in the proverbial shadow of Wrigley Field.
"And my dad was a die-harder before it was popular to be a die-hard Cubs fan," she said.
Her dad can be blamed for passing the burden of Cubs fandom onto his daughter, but he can be thanked for her musical gifts as well, she said.
She described her father, who died at the age of 49, as having a beautiful Irish tenor voice.
"We sang as a family," she said. "We'd go on Sunday rides in the car and we'd sing. I don't remember ever not singing."
That led to roles in high school productions, and though she did perform in some professional theater shows, she stuck to a more stable career as a registered nurse.
She has also performed with the Grove Players and at the Theatre of Western Springs.
She became focused on her long-gestating dream of singing the National Anthem at Wrigley Field more than three years ago after attending a workshop led by the originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Jack Canfield.
He encouraged participants to compile a bucket list. Topping her list was the National Anthem at Wrigley Field, so she recorded her rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and submitted it to the Cubs.
"They said, 'No, thank you,'" she said.
She tried again the next year, and this time she didn't hear an answer, but she didn't quit.
"I wanted to show my children that you never give up on your dream," she said.
So last year, she called popular WGN Radio host Jonathon Brandmeier, she said.
"I said, 'Johnny, I need a hookup,'" she said.
It paid off.
Brandmeier invited her to sing the National Anthem in the Captain Morgan bar at Wrigley Field before a game.
"It was nice, but it wasn't the field," she said. Her go-for-it attitude worked out for the best, though.
Cubs VP and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Wally Hayward happened to be in the bar, and her rendition was strong enough to earn an invitation from him to sing the song on the field before the start of a game.
"If you are intentional, the opportunity presents itself," she said. "You have to put yourself there."
Her family got four tickets to the game. And the Belda clan purchased several more so that her husband Ed and all four of their children could attend in addition to her brothers and sisters.
"Afterwards, my son sent me a text that said, 'You crushed it,'" she said.