Grafenwoehr's McGraw headed to ORS finals
November 16, 2012
SAN ANTONIO -- Grafenwoehr's Staff Sgt. Darren McGraw of the 7th Army NCO Academy is one of 12 performers who has been selected for 2012 Operation Rising Star Finals Week.
Shows are scheduled for Dec. 9, 11, 13, 15 and 16 at historic Fort Sam Houston Theatre, home of Army Entertainment.
Fourteen judges helped select the semifinalists after watching videos of winners from 33 garrisons around the world that hosted local competitions, mostly at Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation venues.
McGraw, a petroleum supply specialist from Pensacola, Fla., was the runner-up in Grafenwoehr's local event but advanced to ORS finals week because the winner advanced last year. His style is patterned after that of his grandmother, Donnie Hathaway, Usher and Otis Redding.
"I grew up singing and listening to music," McGraw said. "When it all fell down, music was there to pick it back up."
In addition to McGraw, the other 11 finalists are:
-- Capt. Jaqueline Allen of Fort Gordon, Ga.
-- Staff Sgt. John Andelfinger of Yongsan, Korea
-- Spc. Paula Ashcraft of Fort Detrick, Md.
-- Senior Airman Sherita Cummings of Joint Base San Antonio Sam Houston
-- Spc. Reuben Eldridge of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.
-- Pfc. Marvin Forbes of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
-- 1st Lt. Thomas Johnson of Fort Jackson, S.C.
-- Spc. Mary Knudson of Wiesbaden, Germany
-- Spc. Constance Mack of Presidio of Monterey, Calif.
-- and military family members Calvin Snead of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, and Christina Williams of the Naval Support Facility in Dahlgren, Va.
The military singing contest is based on the premises of FOX television's "American Idol," complete with celebrity judges and recording artists, and will be televised by the Pentagon Channel.
Allen, a signal officer from Monroe, N.C., is married to Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert Allen. She says music is her first love and greatest passion. She prefers gospel, soul and R&B.
Andelfinger, a member of the 51st Security Forces Squadron at Osan Airbase, sang Bon Jovi's "Always" to win at the U.S. Army Garrison in Yongsan.
Ashcraft, a logistics supply specialist from Clinton, Md., was the 2011 Operation Rising Star runner-up in the local competition at Fort Detrick. Inspirational and gospel are her favorite music genres. She said events like Operation Rising Star give her confidence to be in front of people, which is important to a non-commissioned officer.
Cummings, a medical admin from Atlanta, was selected for the 2010 Tops in Blue Worldwide Talent Contest. She patterns her style after Christina Aguilera.
Eldridge, a motor transport operator from Valdosta, Ga., hopes Operation Rising Star will provide his love for singing with direction and purpose. He prefers country, but likes all kinds of music.
Forbes, a human resource specialist from Columbus, Ga., has been singing since age 5 and has recording studio experience. "Music has been my release," said Forbes, a longtime school and church choir member. "My only real relaxation is music."
Johnson, a finance officer from Hacienda Heights, Calif., has deployed to Afghanistan, Thailand and twice to Iraq. He says his life is encompassed by music. His style is most influenced by opera and '80s music, but his favorite genre "depends on the day."
Knudson, an X-ray technician from Atascadeo, Calif., took second place in her local 2011 Operation Rising Star competition. She has been singing and playing musical instruments for most of her life. "It's everything to me," she said.
Mack, a linguist from Stone Mountain, Ga., is a jazz enthusiast who sang in choirs in church, high school and college. She won the local 2011 Operation Rising Star event at Presidio of Monterey.
Snead, a former Soldier from Tifton, Ga., is no stranger to Army Entertainment. He was in the cast of the 2010 U.S. Army Soldier Show and is competing in Operation Rising Star as husband of Staff Sgt. KaMesha Snead.
"Music has allowed me to travel the world and meet, network and have experiences that only music can create," Snead said. "I'm just appreciative that they still have competitions for the military and family to participate in."
Williams, a military wife from Covington, Tenn., won a 2010 Tennessee All-Star in Music award. She hopes her Operation Rising Star participation will help her become more involved in the military community.