Army talent will shine bright at Operation Rising Star
Pfc. Alex Liddle from the Presidio of Monterey, Calif., grew up watching his dad play and sing with his band. Here he performs on stage in preparation for the upcoming Operation Rising Star competition.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The ten professional entertainers who are judging this year's Operation Rising Star will have their combat boots and cowboy hats knocked off when the 12 Army semi-finalists hit the Wallace Theatre's stage at Fort Belvoir on Nov. 13 at 8 p.m.

Discovering who their judges are will be just as exciting for the contestants from Kosovo, Korea, Hawaii, Germany and across the U.S., from N.C. to Calif.

Competition was tough at the 31 garrisons where the semi-finalists were chosen. But like those who rise to the top of the first round of televised sing-offs on FOX television's American Idol, the competitors who have spent years polishing their star shined bright enough to be chosen.

For instance, Family member Sonja Ambrosino of Fort Knox, Tenn., began honing her vocal chords in a public forum when she sang the National Anthem at a New York Mets game at Shea Stadium in New York City. Her husband, Cpt. Jason Ambrosino, is currently stationed at Fort Campbell, where he awaits deployment.

"About seven years ago, I was at a mall in New Jersey and noticed a long line of people waiting to audition to sing at the game. After 100 of us performed live, I was announced the winner. It was pretty neat to see my name on the billboards at the stadium that day," Ambrosino said.

Pfc. Alex Liddle from the Presidio of Monterey, Calif., grew up watching his dad play and sing with his band.

"He's my inspiration. Dad gave me vocal lessons when I was younger and I also took a vocals class at Watertown High School in Tenn.," Liddle said.

Before he joined the Army, Alex played in his own band with two friends and alternated lead vocals with his twin brother Justin.

"I have a rock and roll voice with some grit to it, and I project very loudly. Normally, I do vocal exercises such as sirens and lip buzzes before performances only, but I sing just about every day," Liddle said.

The first time Alex performed, he said, was at LuLu's CafAfA in Watertown, Tenn.

"My twin and I were so nervous our lips were quivering. It had kind of a nice affect, though; we had a stress-induced vibrato. It took quite some time to get comfortable singing in front of people. I wasn't completely comfortable until I messed up the first time. After I learned to accept the fact that everyone messes up, I was able to try my hardest and show my vocal ability by taking the risks. Operation Rising Star is my dream," Liddle said.

They will all have plenty of time to get their voices in shape and overcoming any fears of taking the stage. After reporting to Executive Producer Tim Higdon at Fort Belvoir Army Entertainment Division Nov. 6, they will go through a rigorous routine of rehearsals from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. nearly every day until the competition begins Nov. 12.

"Joey Beebe will be their voice coach, and they'll also have mentoring sessions from celebrity judges Debra Byrd, Michael Peterson and Josh Gracin every day," Higdon said.

Maj. Serelda Herbin of Fort Hood, Texas, who just returned from downrange in August, looks at singing as a way to share with others what God gave her.

"I have always enjoyed performing - it was my outlet growing up. And because I never lived with my mom and never knew my dad, I was raised by my grandmother. As a child, it is hard to grow up wondering why your parents did not choose to raise you. So the way I dealt and cope was singing," Herbin said.

There are also performers arriving at Fort Belvoir with no training or experience performing live. Gayren Gimarino, a Family member from Camp Red Cloud, Korea, confesses she's nervous to perform and unsure of her voice.

"I've wanted to be a singer ever since I was a kid, but I never performed in a band or anywhere, nor have I had formal lessons. But I'm still working on trying to better my vocal quality, although I don't do vocal exercises very often," Gimarino said.

She did try to perform in a contest once when she was pregnant, and tried to hide her nervousness on stage.

"Singing is my life. I love to sing and I'm going to give my very best with this opportunity," Gimarino said.

Win or lose, they all say they feel they've achieved much by being picked as a semi-finalist.
"I'm proud just to be able to say that I made it," Liddle said.

"This is a golden opportunity and will create the foundation that I need, as well as get my name out into the public. This wouldn't be possible if I didn't have the support from my amazing friends I have made here [in my unit], as well as the incredible competition that forced me to push my voice to the limits. I am so thankful," Liddle said.

Sonja is just proud that she made it to the semi-finals.

"This is another step on a long journey with music. I would love to represent the Army musically, but I feel that I have made my husband, my Family, Fort Campbell and all the Families that supported me proud. I dedicated my final performance to them as it was an Original song I wrote about a Family and the struggles during deployment. I wrote that while my husband was deployed in Iraq in 2005. Sharing that song with people who understood the story was the icing on the cake," Ambrosino said.

"To be chosen from among many is an accomplishment. This competition is not the ceiling where I end but the floor where I begin the journey of sharing my light with the world," Herbin said.
"Honestly, being picked right after the auditions, I already felt like I've achieved so much. I never expected it to this far and I am really, truly thankful," Gimarino said.

The winner of Operation Rising Star receives an all-expense-paid trip to Calif. for two, and the opportunity to record a three-song CD at Firehouse Recording Studios in Pasadena, Calif.

The 2nd place winner will receive $1,000 and the 3rd place winner will receive $500.

Visit www.oprisingstar.com for show times, viewing instructions for computer, TV air times, voting policies, and details about VIP tickets.

For all other questions or concerns, contact ORS Executive Producer Tim Higdon at either timothy.b.higdon@us.army.mil or by calling 703-806-3698 (DSN 656).

Page last updated Mon November 1st, 2010 at 15:54