<b>CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq -</b> "I have been playing the piano since I was eight, nine, ten years old. But I realized I wanted to be a performer when I saw the Michael Jackson 'Billie Jean' video while I was in middle school," said Sgt. Kevin Cherry, a saxophonist and singer with the 3rd Infantry Division Band.

Unbeknownst to Sgt. Cherry, that initial intrigue with the "King of Pop" would place him among top performers in the U.S. Army.

Since seeing that music video, Sgt. Cherry has had many experiences in the musical world. While attending Grambling State University, in Louisiana, he was the sole male member of the Orchesis Dance Company, a dance troupe that performed at football halftime shows.
Since enlisting in the Army in 1998, Sgt. Cherry has been with various Army bands, and sat in twice as a judge for Military Idol. He was even named the president of Urban Capitol Talent Management, in Washington, D.C.

After years of dedicating his life to music, Sgt. Cherry was surprisingly chosen to perform with an exclusive and elite Army performance group - for a second time.

He was selected over a large pool of applicants throughout the Army, who represent various military units ranging from Army bands to the infantry, to perform with the 2010 U.S. Army Soldier Show. It's a high-energy, 90-minute, live musical that showcases the talents of active duty Soldiers. The troupe travels the globe, entertaining Soldiers.

However, Sgt. Cherry didn't go through the intensive application process like the other Soldiers.

Normally, Soldiers have to apply with a videotaped performance then audition with a live performance. Sergeant Cherry, though, was hand-selected after performing a special encore dedication to Michael Jackson when the Soldier Show stopped at Fort Stewart, last year.

"Usually, when the Soldier Show visits a base, they introduce former performers that are in the audience," said Sgt. Cherry, who performed in 2004 with the show. "And for some reason, I don't know why, they had me come on stage for an impromptu performance. Of course, because of etiquette, I had to accept."

Ironically, they wanted him to perform Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean,' the very song that inspired him to be a performer so many years ago.
The morning after he performed his song and dance, Sgt. Cherry was informed that the Soldier Show wanted him to be part of their 2010 season, largely due to the fact that the show will feature a Michael Jackson tribute.

Sergeant Cherry has no reservations about performing the King of Pop's songs. In fact, he auditioned with Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' and 'Beat It' when he was selected to perform in the 2004 Soldier Show.

"He's my favorite (performer), hands down," said Sgt. Cherry, about Michael Jackson. "To do this - when he's not here anymore - is a great honor."

Sergeant First Class Frank Barlow, 3rd Infantry Division Band operations section noncommissioned officer-in-charge, believes Sgt. Cherry is a perfect fit for this tribute.

"Sergeant Cherry is quite masterful at entertaining and reproducing some of the moves of Michael Jackson," he said. "He's a magnificent performer; he'll be outstanding. He lights up on stage and has a great personality to go out and be a performer."

That confidence, combined with his unflappable upbeat attitude, will undoubtedly help Sgt. Cherry through the upcoming grueling performance schedule. The Soldier Show operates 14-hour days, seven days a week and performs all over the world for seven to eight months. Before that, though, members of the troupe go through a rigorous six-week rehearsal program, which includes aerobic workouts, vocal coaching, dance training, and even learning to assemble and dismantle the stage trusses. In addition to all this, performers learn as many as 40 songs throughout the season.
"From my previous experience in 2004, I know what I'm not interested in doing," said
Sgt. Cherry with a smile. "The equipment can be pretty heavy and it can get pretty grueling."
But the hard work put into moving and setting up roughly 18 tons of equipment before the show pays off during the performance when the group showers eager troops across the country and around the world with 90 minutes of song and dance.

"I feel that the Soldier Show is the pride of the armed services," said Sgt. Cherry. "Music is what our Soldiers need. Music gives you a chance to let go and relax and forget about some things. So much can happen in an hour and a half inside a person just because of music and performance. I feel honored to do it."

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