Gondolier to serenade NASCAR fans with national anthem

Usually, it’s the third time that’s a charm. For Jeff Stults, it was the fourth time.

That’s how many times the tenor, who lives just north of Summerlin, tried out for the honor of singing the national anthem at the Sam’s Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

This year, he won.

The race is slated for Saturday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and will be nationally televised on ESPN2.

“No, I’m not going to lip sync,” he joked, referring to singer Beyoncé’s presidential inauguration controversy.

Race sponsor Sam’s Town and FOX5 TV staged the annual open audition in late January. Stults, 26, estimated that about 100 singers auditioned. He arrived at 7 a.m. and found two dozen people already in line.

They auditioned a cappella. He did well and received a callback.

A few days later, 25 finalists were again evaluated in the final round. Then, decision made, the judges came into the waiting room and declared him the winner.

“It was really cool. When they announced it, everyone clapped,” he said.

His best friend, Angela DiCarlo, said he texted her at work immediately. She said she could hear the excitement in his words, but then, “singing is his passion. He wakes up and breathes it. It’s always been his dream to be an entertainer, a singer. He probably wouldn’t be able to function if he couldn’t sing at least once a day.”

Stults moved to Las Vegas as a child and graduated from Eldorado High School, where he was in drama and appeared in the school’s productions, including “South Pacific” and “The Diary of Anne Frank.” As a member of the Las Vegas Master Singers, he’s performed with the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

Although he’s never had professional voice lessons, singing is how Stults earns his living. His day job is as a gondolier at The Venetian and for Gondola Adventures at Lake Las Vegas, both contracted through BESTAgency.

While maneuvering the boat, he belts out the standards for his four-person audience –– “Il Gondoliere,” “Come Back to Sorrento” and “Santa Lucia.”

Auditioning for the job at The Venetian was as easy as walking into a room, singing before one person and being told to sign on the dotted line. Training included how to maneuver the boat and learning Italian songs, the standards hotel guests commonly request, such as “O Sole Mio” and “That’s Amore.”

He said he auditioned for the Strip job at the perfect time.

“When I got hired, they were looking for a lot of people because they had just opened the Venetian Macao,” Stults said. “So, a lot of the (previous) gondoliers were going over to China to be gondoliers there. So, they needed a lot of people. If you could sing, it was pretty easy to get a job.”

Some tourists know to tip better when they request a song. Others just don’t understand protocol. Some of the latter group also will sing along with him, especially if they spent time at the bar before taking the ride. Are those people good singers?

“More than likely, no,” he said.

Stories abound between gondoliers of the times when riders have fallen into the canal at The Venetian. Luckily, it is only 3 feet deep indoors because it’s on The Venetian’s second story. The outer lake, however, can be 9 feet deep in places.

Some people like to engage him in conversation, while others, he said, don’t even make eye contact. “They just want to enjoy the moment. You’re kind of like the background music, the radio.”

In his five years as a gondolier, he said he’s sung several songs a cappella. It is good training for his television premiere, which will also be done sans accompaniment.

This will not be the only time he’s sung the national anthem at an event. In May 2011, he sang it for a Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball game.

Stults has also tried out for major singing competitions, including “American Idol.” In January, he went to the Los Angeles Convention Center to audition for “The Voice.” He suspects his voice was good enough but that the judges were looking for a singer who fit a preconceived personality type.

“They want someone they can sell,” he said.

And the three times he tried out previously for the NASCAR event? He must have made an impression, Stults said, as the judges seemed to remember him.

Being heard nationally will be another feather in his cap as he works toward his goal –– earning a recording contract where he said he can sing “pop and jazz, the Michael Bublé kind of stuff” and touring with a big musical.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at or 702-387-2949.

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