Laura Zambron has been a police officer for five years, but a singer for much longer than that.
Little did the 27-year-old Fairfax resident imagine that her career in law enforcement would be just the ticket to living out her singing dreams.
Zambron, an officer first class with the Fairfax County Police Department stationed out of the West Springfield District, is the staff singer for the department’s Honor Guard. That position, for which she volunteers in addition to her duties as an officer, has led to many singing engagements across the county. On Sept. 28, though, Zambron performed before her biggest audience ever — singing the national anthem at Camden Yards in Baltimore before an Orioles Major League Baseball game.
"I love to sing, and I love being a police officer, and how great is this I get to do both," said Zambron, who joined the force in 1999 after moving to the area from western New York.
She mostly sings the national anthem and has performed at auxiliary graduations and a law-enforcement memorial service. That’s not the only place Zambron bursts into song, though, according to colleagues.
"To hear her sing is special, because she has such an amazing voice. When we see shows like 'American Idol,' everyone tells her she should be on shows like that," said Officer Dale Lingenfelter, who has worked with Zambron in the West Springfield station for three years.
"She has wonderful ability as a police officer. She goes out and takes on challenging cases," said Lingenfelter, who worked as Zambron’s partner installing child safety seats. During their down time, Zambron would sing to herself, and she impressed Lingenfelter enough that he invited her to sing at his wedding in September 2002.
"People knew that she sang, but to hear her in that capacity, at a wedding, they couldn’t believe it," said Lingenfelter.
"She is fantastic. You can hear a song that’s on the radio, and if it’s something she likes, there’s no comparison. You’d rather listen to her sing than the artist on the radio."
SOON AFTER that wedding, Zambron caught the ear of
Lt. Ken Bain, director of the Honor Guard. Soon, Zambron was auditioning for a permanent spot in the ensemble, which presents the colors and represents the FCPD at ceremonies across the county.
According to Bud Walker, public information officer for the FCPD, Zambron is the first singer the Honor Guard has had in at least 30 years. She is also trained as a marksman and works as a crossing guard at West Springfield schools.
"My family at the station gets a lot of my singing. They always hear me blurting out something," Zambron said. "It’s more of a hobby, but I’m lucking out by being on honor guard."
Born and raised in Buffalo, Zambron sang in high-school choir and even had some solos, but once she hit the work force and college, her singing aspirations came to a halt. After graduating from Erie Community College, Zambron was recruited by, and accepted a position with, the Fairfax County Police Department, little imagining that her career in law enforcement would lead her back to her love of singing.
"I can remember sitting in the chair on graduation day, and there was a female sheriff singing the national anthem, and I thought, ‘I want to do that,’" said Zambron, who enjoys a variety of music but said soul singers Alicia Keys and Oleta James are two of her favorites.
It was through the Honor Guard that Zambron secured her gig at the Orioles game. Guards have presented the colors in the past, but always with a separate anthem singer.
This year, they said, "Hey, we come equipped with a singer," said Zambron.
Performing in front of over 10,000 fans at a professional sporting event on regional television was nerve-racking, said Zambron, who sang a cappella and didn’t use a pitch pipe, used by singers to get their bearings before singing.
"I’m always nervous. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small group of children or a huge crowd at the Orioles game, I want to sing the song the way it’s supposed to be sung," she said.
Once the big event was over, though, Zambron was ready for Round 2.
"As soon as I got off the field, I said, ‘Can you have us back, now that you know who we are?’" she said. With Washington, D.C., scheduled to have a pro baseball team next season, and with the Redskins season in full swing, Zambron is hopeful the Fairfax County Honor Guard can make similar public appearances.
"We’ll be all over that," she said.