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The Ithacan

The center at center stage: Football player shares his passion for performance

Courtesy Perry Bindelglass/The Ithacan
Senior offensive lineman Nick Capodilupo sang the national anthem at the 63rd annual Cortana Jug in front of 40,232 spectators.

When Nick Capodilupo was a sophomore in high school, he sent a video to Fenway Park, auditioning to sing the national anthem for his home baseball team. He got no response. 

In 2022, as a junior vocal performance major and offensive lineman for the Ithaca College football team, he performed the anthem at the 63rd annual Cortaca Jug in Yankee Stadium. He sang for more than 40,000 people — the second-largest crowd in Division III football history.

“I think that’s the first time Cortland fans have cheered for an Ithaca person,” Capodilupo said.

The following year, he returned to Yankee Stadium on Aug. 18 to sing again, this time in front of nearly 45,000 spectators. The Red Sox beat the Yankees 8–3 and both teams heard Nick Capodilupo’s performance. 

After his first performance at Yankee Stadium, a representative pulled him aside to say the stadium might want him to perform again. On June 8, Capodilupo got a call from the Bombers’ head football coach Michael Toerper. 

Capodilupo said he remembered the call from Toerper, saying that while Toerper was on the golf course, the Yankees called to ask if they could have Capodilupo back. Toerper was more than welcome to allow Capodilupo to step away from preseason training and let him have the moment.

“[The Yankees] got in touch with me and asked if I would let [Capodilupo] out of a practice to be down there,” Toerper said. “I said ‘Absolutely.’ You get an opportunity like that, you can’t pass it up. It was pretty special for him to go and do it at Yankee Stadium again, this time for a baseball game.”

Capodilupo returned to Yankee Stadium with his family, wearing his Ithaca College jersey, and sang the national anthem. Both sides of one of baseball’s most famous rivalries cheered.

A vocal performance major and a football player, Capodilupo can seemingly do it all, and he has been balancing his two passions for a long time.

In sixth grade, Capodilupo followed in his brother’s footsteps and auditioned for his school musical. As a sixth grader, he only appeared in one scene, but in seventh grade, he landed a supporting role as Maurice in “Beauty and the Beast.” At the same time, he was continuing his football career in Hingham, Massachusetts, having started his career in the third grade. For every success he had in football, there was an equal success in music. Capodilupo was a starter on the football team and a leading man onstage. 

His high school choral teacher, Joe Young, said Capodilupo has the most impressive natural musical instrument of any of his students. Young described hearing Capodilupo perform the national anthem in a unique way, adjusting the meter and rhythm “in service to the text.”

“He takes rhythmic liberties with the anthem that are interesting, but also remains true to the pride and perseverance that is so much a part of what the anthem conveys,” said Young. 

Capodilupo said he developed a knack for doing things his own way, as he navigated an unrelenting high school schedule where football and music clashed.

The two halves of Capodilupo’s life rarely stayed separate. Football and music constantly intersect to create a perfect storm of his passions. Despite the differences of both, Capodilupo managed to take them in stride. 

Capodilupo auditioned for and performed at the All-State Music Festival twice and Senior District Music Festival four times, an immense achievement that added morning choir rehearsals to his already packed schedule.

A vocal performance major, Capodilupo began his career in performance in middle school. (NOLAN SAUNDERS/THE ITHACAN)

“Tuesdays were the worst day because I’d get to school at 7:20, rehearse for 40 minutes, go to classes all day, then after class, I’d go right to the drama room,” Capodilupo said. “I made a deal with the drama teacher that I would [attend rehearsal] up until the very last minute that I could.” 

At 3:30, he would don his pads and run from the stage to the football field.

“I even remember one day running outside, and I didn’t stop running,” Capodilupo said. “I just kept running … and I literally ran to the center position and got down in my stance and we started to play.”

After football practice, he would have a short break before attending choir rehearsals until as late as 9 p.m. Young said Capodilupo’s dedication was admirable, understanding the rigor of his days. 

“If you can pull it off, that’s great,” Young said. “I don’t mind if you come in your uniform and show up here and sing. I think that’s awesome.”

Capodilupo recalled his entire high school football team attending his performance as Mary Sunshine in “Chicago.”

“Not one person wasn’t there,” Capodilupo said. “Even the coaches came, and Mary Sunshine was a cross-dressing role, but people loved it. … It was one of my favorite memories.”

Capodilupo received the same support from his college team, remembering that several teammates watched him perform in “Pirates of Penzance” at Dillingham Theatre in early 2023.

“My old lineman buddies were right there in the first row,” Capodilupo said. “For some of them, it was the first show they’d ever been to, but they loved it.”

Capodilupo said his balancing act between music and sports often reminds people of Troy Bolton, the star character of “High School Musical.”

“I’ve heard that a few different times,” Capodilupo said. “But then I always joke and say ‘No, I’m more with Finn Hudson because I’m a football player. He’s from ‘Glee.’” 

Despite the similarities to Hudson and Bolton, Capodilupo is one of a kind at the college.

“As far as I know, I’m the only football player and music student in at least the last ten years,” Capodilupo said. “That was … interesting when I heard that from my coach.”

Capodilupo’s unique dynamic of juggling football and immense musical talent set him apart from most, but it does not come without effort. Capodilupo can be seen in pads or in a theater as someone who lights up the room and is fully committed to the people around him. Toerper had only good things to say about Capodilupo’s character and dedication to his team. He said Capodilupo puts as much effort into his performance on the field as he does on the stage.

“He always comes to practice with a positive attitude, and really helps others around him prepare and play at their best,” Toerper said. 

Toerper described Capodilupo as a “jack of all trades,” saying his balancing act is a testament to his ability to organize his priorities.

“Nick is somebody that the guys have such an admiration for because of his zest for life and his passion for both football and performance,” Toerper said.

Capodilupo remembered a time that Toerper, in meticulous preparation for a game, had him perform the anthem at practice as part of the pre-game procedure. He said Toerper’s unconditional support is something we will always be grateful for.

“He was so serious about it,” Capodilupo said. “Every single time I have something music-related going on, he’s always the first one to be there to congratulate it, repost it, talk about it.”

Capodilupo said, overall, it is those in his corner that deserve the acclaim for his success. If it were not for his mother’s support and motivation, Capodilupo said he would not be the player — nor the performer — that he is today. 

“[My mom] is the one who deserves all the credit for everything,” Capodilupo said. “She helped me see through all my doubts and convinced me that I should keep going until I can’t go any more.”

Going until he cannot go any more is the same mentality Capodilupo always brings to the stage, the field and — most recently — Yankee Stadium.

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