Saturday, October 22, 2005

Military Idol Competition

'Idol' quickly becomes coveted military title
By Leo Shane III, Stars and StripesEuropean edition,
Saturday, October 22, 2005

WASHINGTON — Sgt. William Glenn didn’t join the Army to sing, but he keeps finding ways to stretch his vocal cords.
As an active-duty soldier in the 1980’s, he sang at events around the world with the 82nd Airborne Division’s choir. Now, as a guardsman with the 258th MP Company currently assigned to Darmstadt, Germany, he’s competing in the first servicewide singing competition.
And he couldn’t be happier about the mission.

“It’s just been so much fun,” he said between rehearsals at the Military Idol finals on Friday. “I’ve been more nervous than a cat in a dog pound. But just to be able to do it has been great.”

Glenn, 42, is one of five finalists in the competition, which combed the Army for the best singer/soldiers in the world. This week 36 crooners who won regional competitions in the contest descended on Fort Gordon, Ga., to compete with the best.

The final five, who will sing for the title Saturday, include three U.S. soldiers from Germany: Spc. Festus Tobeola of Schweinfurt, Spc. Richard Sianoya of Würzburg and Glenn.

Tobeola is a native of Nigeria who has served with the 177th Armored Battalion since 2001. He said he studied drama and was friends with musicians in college, but his only real vocal experience before the competition was “just singing in the bathroom for kicks.”

Sianoya, a 21-year-old from the Philippines who has served with the 523rd Medical Company for three years, says that although he has performed on stage in the past, “it’s overwhelming and exciting, but this is nerve-wracking as well.”

The five finalists are competing for a $1,000 cash prize and unofficial title of “ambassador for Army entertainment,” with the chance to travel around the world for various MWR events.
The format is based on the popular reality show format, with judges critiquing soldiers on their tone and talent.

When Glenn belted out the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” during one elimination round on Thursday, country singer Michael Peterson gushed that he wished his voice had Glenn’s soulful sound.

Glenn, a pastor in civilian life, said he didn’t know about the competition until he stumbled upon auditions in a base dining hall on his dinner break. Several of his friends egged him on to show off his voice.

“I didn’t know I had a fan club,” he said, laughing. “But here (in Georgia), my mother drove all the way from Alabama to watch me, and it’s just wonderful to have that support, too. She just keeps yelling, ‘Sing, baby, sing!’”

The winner of the competition will be announced in a special online show on Sunday.

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