semifinalists selected for Operation Rising Star singing contest
Debra Byrd, vocal coach and arranger for American Idol, will be one of the judges for Operation Rising Star. Twelve finalists have been selected for the program, which starts Nov. 14.

FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Twelve members of the U.S. military Family have been selected to compete in the final week of competition in the Operation Rising Star singing contest, scheduled for Nov. 14, 16, 18 and 20 at 8 p.m. in the Wallace Theater.

Twelve judges selected the semifinalists after viewing the videotapes of local winners from 35 installations and duty stations worldwide. The Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command-backed contest, based on the premises of FOX television's "American Idol," will be broadcast by the Pentagon Channel Nov. 15, 17, 19 and 21 at 8 p.m. in the United States, Korea and Europe, and 10 p.m. in the Middle East.

Audience members and Internet viewers can cast votes online at for 2 hours after each broadcast.

The semifinalists invited to attend the live elimination rounds are:

Thea Agnew, a military spouse at Fort Campbell, Ky., advanced with "I Can't Make You Love Me" and "Just a Dream."

"Music has healed the pains, comforted the sorrows, given hope in despair, put the 'p' in party and made me dance," said Agnew, a fan of Martina McBride and 2005 American Idol winner Carrie Underwood.

Staff Sgt. Tyrone Basnight of Kaiserslautern, Germany, said music "helps me stay positive and upbeat when life gets stressful."

Staff Sgt. Michael Gordon of Camp Humphreys, South Korea, who sang "Color," said he feels like he's on top of the world when on stage.

"All my problems or stresses go away when the first note comes out of my mouth," said Gordon, who derives inspiration from country artist Randy Travis.

Pfc. Andrea Griffith of Fort Eustis, Va., sang "The Way We Were" on her qualifying video, said "music, along with God, has always been the center of my life."

A1C Jamie Jarmon of Andrews Air Force Base, Md., is another Clarkson fan who said "music is something I loved to do with my dad. Singing always puts me in a great mood." She sang "Stay" and "Simple Man" on her video entry.

Staff Sgt. Chad Kneller of Fort Bragg, N.C., says he began singing at age 2. He advanced with "My Savior" and "Truth."

Sgt. 1st Class Denise Patterson of Fort Bliss, Texas, a gospel singer who prefers Fantasia, wowed the judges with her rendition of "Under the Boardwalk." She said music "has helped me sing my way through several obstacles and triumphs."

1st Lt. Sarah Payeur of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, said "there isn't a single moment or time in my life that's not connected to some song." She appropriately advanced with "Life is a Cabaret."

Lisa Pratt, an Army wife at Fort Carson, Colo., advanced with "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and says music defines her.

"I study it. I practice it. I live it," Pratt said.

Sam Tang, a military spouse at Fort Irwin, Calif., who claims inaugural American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson as her favorite, used music to deal with teenage hardships. She qualified for the Operation Rising Star semifinals with "Chain Chain Chain" and "Run To You."

Capt. Donald Williamson, a chaplain at the U.S. Army Garrison in Bamberg, Germany, sang "You Raise Me Up," and said "music has brought joy to my life and those around me - from singing in church to performing in musicals to singing and leading songs in a field chapel in Forward Operating Base Afghanistan."

Spc. Erin Sataloff of Wiesbaden, Germany, sang "At Last," and calls music his sanctuary.

Sataloff, though selected as a semi-finalist by the panel of judges, will not compete in the live elimination performances because of a mission-related conflict. An alternate will be selected by the panel of judges.

"We're disappointed Erin won't be able to join us," said Tim Higdon, Army Entertainment Division program manager for the competition.

"She's a solid performer and would have been a great addition to the live shows," he continued, "but these are Soldier programs, and mission comes first. We certainly hope to see her compete again next year."

Following a week of rehearsals, vocal coaching and choreography training, the dozen semifinalists will be reduced to six on Nov. 14 at Wallace Theater, where they will be accompanied by the U.S. Army Band on a stage built by members of Army Entertainment Division. That show will be broadcast Nov. 15 on the Pentagon Channel.

The six finalists will be announced during the Nov. 16 live show at Wallace, which will be broadcast Nov. 17. On Nov. 18, three competitors will be eliminated (that show will be broadcast Nov. 19) and the winner will be revealed live at Wallace on Nov. 20. The finale will be broadcast on the Pentagon Channel Nov. 21.

The public is invited to join the studio audience at Fort Belvoir. General-admission seating is free, and reserved VIP seating is available. Visit for show times, voting policies, and details about VIP tickets.

The contest is sponsored by the General Motors Military Discount program. VIP tickets for the Nov. 18 finals will be available Nov. 10-12 at the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro display on Fort Myer, Va.; Nov. 14 and 16 and Nov. 16-18 at Fort Meade, Md.

For more information, contact FMWRC's Shirley Kappa at (703) 681-5221 or via e-mail at

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16