News: Persistence pays off for Scott vocalist selected for Tops in Blue
Story by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - If asked, Airman 1st Class Marell Thomas would say, she was singing since she came out of the womb. Now 20 years old, assigned to the 435th Supply Chain Operations Squadron, at Scott, she has earned a spot on the 2013 elite performing group, Tops in Blue.
Thomas began singing at an early age and in high school she joined the choir. She also competed in as many talent competitions as she could find.
"It's funny because I first found out about Tops in Blue in high school searching for a local talent show," said Thomas, the native of Gary, Ind. "I even signed up to audition until I realized you had to be in the Air Force, a year later I joined. I even remember telling my basic training instructor, 'one day I will be a member of Tops in Blue.'"
Last year she returned from the Tops in Blue world-wide auditions with disappointment of not making the team, but that didn't stop Thomas. She used the feedback to begin preparing for the 2013 auditions.
"During last year's auditions the Tops in Blue staff told me I needed to work on my choreography, so I signed up for a Zumba class to work on dance moves and stay in shape, it really helped out a lot," she said. "Fitness is also a key component. The tour is not all glamor, it is both mentally and physically demanding; the hours are long. Members are required to carry all their own baggage, thousands of pounds of audio, visual, and staging equipment for each show and perform. The staff must know that you can handle this type of physical demand all while maintaining your professional attitude as an ambassador for the Air Force on top of an intense schedule."
Thomas also had help from a local Team Scott employee and former Tops in Blue member, Renee Brantly.
"I met her when she walked into the Outdoor Recreation office one day," said Brantly, 375th Force Support Squadron, Outdoor Recreation assistant manager.
Thomas told Brantly she was auditioning for Tops in Blue and that's when Brantly volunteered her expertise.
"I helped edit and choreograph her routine," said Brantly. "Every free day during lunch I would grab her, and we would go to an open spot to practice. My friend Virginia Williams, a retired master sergeant and former member of the USAF Band of Mid-America, helped coach Thomas vocally."
Brantly even accompanied her to the week-long audition at Lackland AFB, Texas, to provide Wingman support.
"It was an honor to make the team and I have such a feeling of accomplishment," said Thomas. "Not only do I get the opportunity to represent the Air Force for a year and give back to the troops but I get to help celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Tops in Blue."
Thomas also sings at official Air Force ceremonies on Scott, writes her songs and someday hopes to pursue a career in music.
"But aside from molding you to be a better person, you also get to live the tour life," said the Supply Management apprentice "It's going to be a lot different from my career field where I sit down for the majority of my day as an apprentice. Tops in Blue will be go, go, go, all the time on your feet. This will be a challenge, but I guess I will find out what I am made of and if music is a career I want to pursue after this. I truly want to thank my commander, family, friends and all the people I work with for their support. I can't wait to experience Tops in Blue unity and to perform for my Air Force community."