One of MacDill's finest selected for Tops in Blue
by Senior Airman Robin Drake
Encore! Encore! is the greatest compliment any performer can receive. And for Staff Sgt. Alejandro Fernando, that is exactly what happened.
The 6th Communications Squadron telephone systems craftsman was selected March 22 to tour for a second time as a vocalist with Tops in Blue in 2005.
Each year thousands of active-duty Airman submit applications and videotaped auditions in hopes of being selected to fill one of the 35 spots on the TIB team, where talented amateurs compete to become vocalists, musicians and dancers.
From the large number of initial applicants, only a select few are chosen to compete at the Air Force Worldwide Talent Contest held at Lackland AFB, Texas.
"Only 66 people made it to the finals and I was one of them," said a grinning Sergeant Fernando.
There were 10 intense days of training before the competition that included interviews, vocal and dance auditions and specialty performances, said Sergeant Fernando. The interviews are held by a panel of judges, which include TIB's chief of entertainment, staff members and current members of the team.
The vocal auditions were comprised of a wide variety of music. Dance auditions included a choreographed performance piece and specialty performances challenged each individual's creativity abilities.
You have to sell your performances to the judges, said Sergeant Fernando, adding this shows that you are willing to do whatever it takes to be a part of the team.
Once a member is selected for TIB, that individual is entitled to a one-year tour. The first two months are spent training on different features that encompass TIB. Instruction focuses on vocal coaching, dance choreography and equipment familiarization at Lackland.
"What people don't realize is that it is a non-stop process. We do all of the setting up and tearing down of our equipment," said Sergeant Fernando. "We have over 45,000 pounds of equipment."
The remainder of the tour is spent performing for military personnel and their families located in places all around the world.
"I have developed a passion for the program. My talent and the way I perform on stage is a gift that was given to me by God," said Sergeant Fernando.
TIB members travel the globe, entertaining crowds in such far-away places as Italy, Germany, Korea, Spain and Japan, though not all of the locations on the tour are in a desirable setting. TIB has also visited areas in Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iceland and Cuba.
"When we perform overseas, sometimes for people who haven't seen home in awhile, it's very touching. They are depending on us to bring a little piece of home to them," said Sergeant Fernando.
"Tops in Blue has given me more experience in life and helped to make me more of a well-rounded person," said Sergeant Fernando. "It's amazing."