By Caroline GotlerApril 17, 2009
Sarah Hockridge has spent her life using her voice - as a child who loved to sing, as a college music major, and as a staple on the New York coffee shop circuit. Today, she uses her voice for a cause close to her heart - putting words to the experiences of military spouses.
"My civilian friends just don't understand military life and to be able to put a voice to it is a great opportunity that most musicians don't have," Hockridge said. "It's a really great opportunity to let them know they have a voice."
Hockridge, who grew up in Maine, has been singing as long as she can remember. After moving to New York to attend college, Hockridge began to realize her dream of performing professionally and also released several albums. But, everything changed in 2007 when she moved to Fort Bragg, N.C., to join her then-boyfriend Tobey, who was serving in the Air Force.
"I had never been on a military base in my life," Hockridge said. "It was a huge culture shock."
Adjusting to that shock became the topic of many of Hockridge's songs, which began to shift from lamenting broken relationships to presenting a frank look at deployment emotions and separation. Gradually, she gained a following of Soldiers and spouses in the Fort Bragg area who found a personal connection to her lyrics.
"Her voice just blows you away," said Debbie Haley, a Fort Bragg spouse who attended many of Hockridge's shows. "There's so much strength and conviction and feeling in it. It's inspiring to see how proud she is of her husband. She's just embraced it completely. It may not be the life she was used to, but she's so patriotic and proud and supports her husband 100 percent. It gives me some peace to see that, because it is difficult, and you really have to give a lot of yourself."
Hockridge lived at Fort Bragg for about two years, giving voice, piano and guitar lessons by day, and performing anywhere she could in the evenings. When Tobey made the decision to leave the Air Force for the Army, the couple moved to Columbus. Though they've only been at Fort Benning about a month, Hockridge's music has already gained a new audience in the tricommunity.
"She's got a beautiful voice," said Air Force Capt. Larry Owing, on a joint tour at Fort Benning with the 75th Ranger Regiment. "I think the Soldiers will love her."
One of Hockridge's long-term goals is to perform in a USO show for deployed Soldiers. She's already working toward that goal by working with the Fort Benning Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation to perform for basic trainees.
"I would love to give back some of my time to give them a little break for all of the time they dedicate to the country," she said. "I know how long and hard the days over there are, so to be able to give them a little break would be great. And of course, I would love to surprise my husband over there someday."
Until then, Hockridge plans to continue performing as much as she can. Her stage name, Ophir Drive, also the name of a street in New York, sums up her music and outlook, Hockridge said. In Hebrew, Ophir means land of riches, and Hockridge likes to think of her music as rich in both sound and meaning.
"When I heard her sing, I was hypnotized," said Mor An Amar, who came to Fort Benning from Israel with her boyfriend, a major in the Israeli army. "She played a couple songs when we were at her house having dinner, and she was just great. I think she brings a lot of emotion to her songs."
That kind of positive connection is exactly what Hockridge aims for.
"I do music because I love it, but I perform because I want other people to hear it and relate to it and know that somebody else is feeling the same thing," she said. "A lot of spouses have thanked me for giving a voice to the emotions they were feeling. If I can just make one person at a show feel something, whether they're crying or tapping their foot or thanking me at the end, that's why I do this."