By Robert Dozier, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation CommandDecember 18, 2013
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Dec. 18, 2013) -- Sgt. Christiana Ball from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., has been voted Army Entertainment's 2013 Rising Star.
Ball was chosen from a field of 12 vocalists from Army garrisons around the world. She edged out family members Joyce Severino, from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and Sarah Hopkins, from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., in the final round of competition.
"I want to thank everybody who voted for me," Ball said. "I've had just untold amounts of support from my family, people at my installation, my unit, the combat veterans motorcycle association, the VFW.
"Just tons of people," she added. "That is what is overwhelming me: the amount of support and love I've received. And the judges, you all are great. Thank you."
Ball was one of seven finalists from garrisons in the continental U.S. The other six included Hopkins and Severino; as well as family member Charrie Mae Riggs, from Fort Campbell, Ky.; 2nd Lt. Derrick Bishop from Fort Irwin, Calif.; Sgt. Scott Harris, from the Presidio of Monterey, Calif.; and Pvt. 1st Class Kiari Mhoon, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Finalists from overseas garrisons included, Sgt. Oscar Bugarin from Camp Lomonnier, Djibouti; Spc. Ikilya Davenport, from Camp Humphreys, South Korea; and from Germany, 1st Lt. Matthew Gabriel, from Wiesbaden; and family members Christina Lewis, from Kaiserslautern, and Raquel Sargent, from Stuttgart.
"I am so happy and excited and I appreciate the votes I received from everyone," said Severino. "The advice we received from the judges about proper breathing, how to perform and connect with the audience was priceless."
"I'm very grateful and excited for having made it to the top three," said Hopkins. "I entered with no expectations and never pictured myself performing here in Texas. At Operation Rising Star, I've had the time of my life."
Operation Rising Star gives performers a unique opportunity to entertain their comrades around the world and fulfill their own personal musical ambitions.
The 12 finalists competed against each other in three elimination rounds, first narrowing the field to six finalists: Harris, Ball, Lewis, Severino, Hopkins and Sargent; then the top three: Ball, Severino and Hopkins.
"I've been the front man in cover bands, but I've never been with a more talented group of performers," said Harris. "I can't believe the sprint to the finish line."
"A dream is like a Christmas present," said Bishop. "You can hope and hope to get it; once you receive it, you have to take care of it to make it last a lifetime. I'm happy to have had the opportunity here with these great singers."
"The show, the audience and the support was overwhelming," said Lewis. "It validated questions I've had about my talent growing up. It took a while to find my voice, and I'm glad I had a chance to show it here."
Each round of competition was recorded and was made available online for viewing.
"I did my best to use the talents God has given me to represent who I am and who He is to me," said Sargent, one of the top six. "To be able to be on a platform and put on something so much bigger is an honor for me. Now, I really feel that I am a part of the military family and I realize I can follow my dreams. This is a part of my life now."
The competitors were mentored and judged by professionals in the industry. Returning this year to Operation Rising Star were vocalist and vocal coach Debra Byrd (from television's "The Voice"), vocalist and recording country artist Michael Peterson, and retired 12th Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack Tilley. The judge's scores were combined with online votes from fans from around the world to determine who moved ahead in the competition.
"It feels incredible, we are the top 12 singers in the Army," said Harris. "And the experience to get expert advice from these industry leaders, this is just great."
"I feel honored and humbled," said Ball. "Right now, my husband and I are going to celebrate a little, but soon it will be time to get back to the drill. My team back home needs me."
Many Soldiers in the competition are hoping their performance at Operation Rising Star will help them secure a position in the 2014 Soldier Show, also sponsored by Army Entertainment.
"My new year's resolution is to join the Army Soldier Show," said Harris. "I want to live out my dream as a Soldier and a performer."
Tim Higdon, the Soldier Show executive producer, explained that they're already one step closer.
"The six Soldiers in the top 12 already have a 'bye' straight to the live auditions [for the Soldier Show] in February," Higdon said. "The encouraging thing is that talent and success of season nine is a direct result of the ongoing continuation of the program and highlights the difference [Morale, Welfare and Recreation] makes in the whole community."
Thirty garrisons participated in preliminary rounds leading to the top 12 live competition. The 18 not represented in the finals have been contacted to encourage their active-duty, Guard and Reserve performers to submit audition packages for the Soldier Show.
All performances have been recorded and are available online at www.OpRisingStar.com.
Operation Rising Star similar to, but not affiliated with the popular television show American Idol, and is one of many programs designed to bolster morale among troops and deliver positive reinforcement to Soldiers, military civilians and family members.
More information about Operation Rising Star, the contestants and how to view the finals can be found at www.armyentertainment.net.