Life On The Road With Tops In Blue
(March 1, 2010)
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (2/24/2010 - AFNS) -- The band
crescendos toward the end of the song and suddenly stops.
Senior Airman Jennifer Lynn Frost belts out the final
phrase, and the band joins back in for the final chord,
holding it out for what seems like an eternity.
|Tech. Sgt. Alison Maldonado (left), Staff Sgt. Aisha Smith (middle) and Senior Airman Tarryn Holyfield sing during a performance at the Patriot Hall Auditorium Feb. 3, 2010, in Sumter, S.C. Sergeant Maldonado, Sergeant Smith and Airman Holyfield are members of Tops In Blue.
The crowd leaps to their feet in a standing ovation. At the
end of the show, the cast of Tops In Blue lines up at the
bottom of the stage for a meet-and-greet session with the
Tops In Blue is the Air Force musical group dedicated to
bringing musical entertainment to servicemembers, their
families, friends and neighbors.
Each cast serves for one year, visiting every base, said
Airman Frost, a soprano for Tops In Blue and a services
journeyman for the 78th Force Support Squadron at Robins Air
Force Base, Ga. Airman Frost calls Kalamazoo, Mich., home.
Every March, Tops In Blue starts a brand new cast, Airman
Frost said. They come from across the Air Force, winners of
the service's worldwide talent contest.
The first two months consist of the staging period where
they learn the songs and the dance routines, as well as the
lighting and sound design. After that, they hit the road.
Life in Tops In Blue is very busy, said Senior Airman
Victoria Howard, a trombonist for Tops In Blue and
aeromedical evacuation technician for the 459th Aeromedical
Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, Md., who is from
Sweetwater, N.J. They perform every day to every other day
and put in 18 to 20 hour days, with two days off per month.
"On top of performing, all Tops In Blue members are also
part of the crew," Airman Howard said. "They load and unload
all of the equipment, which is between 60,000 to 65,000
Tops In Blue is very different in comparison to her regular
Air Force job, Airman Howard explained. It requires more
attention to detail in communication and time management.
During her normal Air Force job, Airman Howard would
generally come in at 8 a.m., have an hour lunch break and
get off at 5 p.m. With Tops In Blue, she generally sleeps
about five hours a night. Meals will only last about 15 to
20 minutes. As soon as they arrive at their location, they
begin to set up all of their equipment.
After the stage is set, they rehearse. Then the night begins
with the show at 7 p.m., their meet-and-greet session
afterward, tearing down the equipment and doing it all over
again the next day.
Even with all the hard work, Airman Frost described Tops In
Blue as a wonderful experience and said there is never a
"The days are long, but very rewarding," Airman Frost
explained. "The hard work and manual labor have caused me to
thrive; to become a better Airman."
Airman Howard described being in Tops In Blue as the
opportunity of a lifetime.
Tops In Blue visits bases in Germany, Italy, Asia, England,
Hawaii, Alaska and the 48 continental states, Airman Frost
added. On top of that, they sometimes receive special
requests for performances. For example, this past year, they
performed at a NASCAR event and had a request from Germany
to see their performance.
Airman Frost described her most memorable moment with Tops
In Blue as a concert in Montana.
"In high school, I didn't have a lot of friends," Airman
Frost said. "We went to Montana this December, and one of
the girls I went to high school with decided to contact me.
I hadn't seen or spoken to her in seven years. She came to
the show and sat in the first row. She absolutely loved it.
She was very proud of me. It felt really good to see a
member from high school."
Airman Howard said her most memorable moment with Tops In
Blue was the worldwide 2010 talent contest they just
finished. The contest consisted of 10 days of interviews and
auditions for the upcoming Tops In Blue cast. It opened up
her eyes to see how much talent there is in the world and to
see how the program really gives Airmen a unique
Airmen Howard remembered her audition as being very scary at
first. She was trying out for something that she hadn't done
in three years. She began performing music in high school,
originally playing the baritone and tuba, as well as singing
in the choir.
"I picked up the trombone toward the end of high school to
play in the jazz band, but wasn't very good," Airman Howard
She was auditioning for Tops In Blue as a vocalist, but let
the staff know about her complete musical background, Airman
The staff made the audition very comfortable, she recalled.
"They let you know that you don't have to be perfect,
because they're going to train you to be the best that you
can be," Airman Howard explained. "They're just looking for
potential. That really calmed my nerves a little bit."
They ended up casting her as a trombonist, re-teaching her
to play an instrument she hadn't played in three years,
Airman Howard said.
The audition process for Tops In Blue consists of 10 days of
vocal, instrumental, technical and dance auditions, Airman
Frost said. They also have a night for impressions and a
Airman Frost advised those who are interested in Tops In
Blue to make sure they absolutely want it. It is the hardest
thing they will ever do, but it makes them a better person,
teaching good leadership skills and team work. She said they
should give it their all, putting their heart and soul into
Airman Howard said her favorite part of Tops In Blue is the
meet-and-greet session at the end of every performance. It
lets her see the impact that she makes on the audience. When
she is on stage performing, everything she does is for them
and she does whatever she can to make the show enjoyable.
As Airman Frost performs, she said she thinks about the
audience and what she would want to see if she were
"At the end of the day, when I'm up on that stage, knowing
that I helped put this miraculous set together," Airman
Frost said. "Performing and getting the opportunity to do
this, being on the road is great, I love it. I personally
don't want to go back."
Once the meet-and-greet session has finished, Airman Frost
and the rest of the cast head back to the dressing rooms to
change into their work clothes. After changing, they head
back to the stage to tear down the set and hit the road for
their next show.
Airman 1st Class Daniel Phelps|
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Neil D. Warner
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News Service
Comment on this article