Terrance Coley Sr., a custodian at Lawrence High School for 16 years, is an accomplished singer who for years has sung the national anthem before games and other events, including for the high school state basketball tournament. He’s shown Monday in his office with a sign that students displayed at Lawrence High after he sang the national anthem in January for the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

FAIRFIELD — If you ever find yourself in the halls of Lawrence High School, don’t be surprised to hear the soothing voice of a longtime staffer there who fills the hallways with song as he completes his daily work.

There are times when custodian Terrance Coley Sr. has tried to restrain himself from singing, being careful not to interrupt the schoolwork around him. But when he stops singing, students and faculty will come looking for him asking what’s wrong, Coley said.

“I do it every day,” he said. “If I don’t, these kids, they get thrown off.”

Anyone looking for a more formal performance can attend a Lawrence High athletic event where Coley likely will be singing the national anthem.

Coley, 47, has been singing at games since 2007 and has become a pillar of the local music community — not just because of his performances, but because of his connection with students, athletes and fans. He has performed at Lawrence games, Colby College games and in January he sang before his largest audience yet — nearly 19,000 people who attended an NBA game between the host Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Terrance Coley Sr., a custodian at Lawrence High School, top right, sings the national anthem March 3 before the start of the girls Class A state title game in basketball at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

He will sing at just about any sporting event, Coley said, and although baseball is his favorite sport to watch — a New York City native, he’s a die-hard Yankees fan — he doesn’t have a preference when it comes to singing at one event over another. He loves the energy of the fans at Lawrence games and is happy to turn up for whoever asks.


“Any game they want me to sing at, any game, they know I’m ready,” he said.

Growing up in New York City, he went to LaGuardia High School and sang in the Harlem Boys Choir. He composes his own songs and has original music on Spotify, under PoppaT, including a song he wrote for his wife Cathi called “Never Let You Go.”

He has taken time to create a distinctive style for singing the anthem. D. Loren Fields, a Lawrence graduate and the longtime band director at the school, said it becomes clear when hearing Coley in the hallways that he sings from his heart and soul.

“I’d be hard pressed to find somebody who does it with more heart,” Fields said of Coley’s rendition of the anthem.

Coley connects with students and is an uplifting personality, Fields said, calling him the “rising tide that lifts all boats.”

“You want to be around him because he’s heartfelt and sincere and he’s upbeat,” Fields said.


Terrance Coley Sr., a custodian at Lawrence High School for 16 years, is an accomplished singer who has sung the national anthem before games and other events. He sang the anthem before nearly 19,000 people at an Orlando Magic NBA game in January. He’s shown Monday at the high school in Fairfield. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Ryan Pellerin is a Fairfield native who works for the Orlando Magic and arranged for Coley to sing before the game against the Thunder in January. Pellerin, who’s the son of Lawrence boys basketball coach Jason Pellerin, has worked with the Magic for about two years and had worked awhile to get Coley booked to sing “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Coley and his wife had to pay for the travel, but Jason Pellerin works with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates and the program gathered donations to go toward the trip. So the couple took the opportunity to go to Florida a few days early, escape the Maine winter and have a proper vacation.

On the day of the Magic game, Coley arrived early at the stadium for a sound check, thankful that his wife was there to keep him calm and focused. Even after years of singing the anthem, Coley said he still gets nervous every time.

But when the music started, Coley was calm and ready to face an audience of thousands.

“I still can’t believe that happened,” he said.


His reputation for singing the anthem began when he started working for the school district more than 15 years ago. As Coley sang during his shift, his voice caught the attention of Bill McManus, the athletic director at the time.

McManus set up the first time Coley sang — at an award ceremony for elementary school students. Afterward, the students came up to him and wanted his autograph. McManus died in December and Coley said he’s deeply thankful for the path McManus set him on those many years ago.

Terrance Coley Sr. sings the national anthem before the start of the Class A girls state title game in basketball between Lawrence High School and Brunswick on March 3 at the Augusta Civic Center. Photo courtesy of Ramsey Stevens

“He’s in my thoughts every time,” Coley said.

Before moving to Maine, Coley was working at a restaurant in New York City. But he was worried about his son’s safety in the city, a concern that only grew following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The family decided they needed to move and Coley’s partner at the time had family in Maine.

“I needed a change. I needed to get out of the city,” he said.

Although moving from the Big Apple to rural Maine may represent a culture shock, Coley had family in South Carolina growing up, and Maine reminds him of that, and his new home was not so unfamiliar after all.

The Magic game was not the only bucket-list performance Coley got to check off this year. He also sang the anthem at the girls Class A state championship basketball game in early March, where Lawrence defeated Brunswick and took home the Gold Ball.

It’s the Lawrence community that keeps him coming back to sing game after game, he said.

“I don’t need awards or anything because they make me feel like a superstar,” Coley said.

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