Airmen named the 'Best of the Best' performers

  • Published
  • By Dona Fair
  • Army and Air Force Hometown News
From a little bit of country to a whole lot of rock and roll, 56 Airmen from around the world displayed their talent before standing room only crowds, during free live performances this past weekend at the Bob Hope Theater at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. All have hopes of not only being named the best of the best, but also land a spot on the 2008 Tops in Blue team.

Each year, 30 active-duty Airmen from all Air Force specialties are chosen to provide quality entertainment to families' worldwide, during a 90-minute nonstop musical extravaganza.

Throughout last week, the contestants were coached on how to perform, given makeup tips and etiquette lessons and went through a variety of music, dance and instrumental auditions before former Tops in Blue team members.

"This lets us see what their strengths and weaknesses are and how they handle being on the stage, said retired Master Sgt. Tracey Wright, who was a vocalist with the 1990 troupe. We are determining if they 'have what it takes' to perform on the road for a whole year."

Every contestant, regardless of what their talent was, went through each audition. "Sometimes the judges discover that an individual has a hidden talent that they didn't realize they had," said Jeri White, the teams production manager.

"A common misconception is that if you come here and are named the best singer, that you will automatically make the team. The most talented person may not be the best person for the team. We are looking for the person who has the most potential, the one who can grow and become a seasoned professional," she said.

For all of the contestants, the week-long process was very stressful. To help get them through it all, each team of contestants was assigned a team leader whose role was to take them from day one and make them show ready.

"We taught them everything we possibly could throughout the week in terms of voice control, stage presence and more than anything else, confidence. We wanted to make it difficult for Mr. Tom Edwards, chief of Air Force Entertainment, to make the final selection of who will make the Tops in Blue troupe," said Staff Sgt. Naomi Keen, a 2006 vocalist who is currently assigned to Wilford Hall Medical Center, and was a mistress of ceremonies for the competition. "Being a performer here gives you the overall confidence to stand up and sing before a four-star general and to have faith in yourself."

Besides preparing for the competition, the contestants participated in the "Give Back" program. "This program gave them a feel for what it is like to perform in public before they performed for the competition. It also gave them an opportunity to provide a small amount of entertainment to the children at several of the local child development centers on base and the trainees at the 345th Training Squadron," said Tech. Sgt. James Dill, a 2000 vocalist, from Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. "It was especially great to be able to perform for the veterans at the Audie Murphy Veterans Hospital on Pearl Harbor Day."

"This past week was fun, challenging, frustrating and new. I learned to perform and choreograph outside of my box. I have truly enjoyed my team members--their personalities, talent and positive attitudes," said Capt. Courtney E. Wallace who is from San Antonio.

The winners of the Worldwide Talent Competition were:

Female vocalist:
Ashley Montgomery - First place
Alice Lewis - Second place

Male vocalist:
Corey Sims - First place
Brian Carmack - Second place

Chris Gadson - First place (Instrumental drums)
Henry Roberson - Second place (Instrumental bass)

Tyrona Pearsal - First place
Courtney Wallace - Second place

David Butler - First place
Chandra Smith - Second place

Best of Show:
Corey Sims

The contestants selected for the upcoming Tops in Blue team will be notified by their commanders on December 14.

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