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NEWS | Oct. 4, 2013

Fort Eustis Army spouse performs on 'America's Got Talent'

By Staff Sgt. Wesley Farnsworth 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Singing has been Sonjia Penny's, passion since she first performed in a high-school talent show. Little did she know her voice would lead her to become a member of a musical choir performing on the reality television show "America's Got Talent."

The American Military Spouses Choir is made up of 50 to 100 military spouses representing every branch of the military, from across the United States. The choir includes music teachers and directors, women with theater backgrounds and spouses who just love to perform.

"I was at a spouses' luncheon and another spouse had brought an email she received advertising auditions to perform at the Kennedy Center with [singer and songwriter] David Foster," Penny said. "I love to sing, so I went over to check it out."

Penny said she loves being around other military spouses because they share similar experiences and are easily able to form strong bonds. When she found out she would be singing with other spouses at the Kennedy Center, she jumped at the chance. She went straight home that evening and sent an email to the choir's organizers at Cammo Music who put the call out.

"About 48 other women were selected," Penny said. "We met the day before the performance for the first time and started rehearsing."

After that performance, the group continued to practice. Less than a year later, they auditioned for "America's Got Talent" in Chicago.

"We had a little time to prepare for the auditions," Penny said. "However, because we are scattered across the country, we normally practiced together via Skype, which is very interesting."

Penny says that the group got a nice surprise when they all walked out onto the stage in Chicago.

"The audience in Chicago immediately started applauding when they announced we were part of a military spouses' choir," Penny said. "It was then that I realized that we are not just representing ourselves, but every military spouse out there."

After making the cut in Chicago, the group went to Las Vegas where judges immediately qualified them for the live shows held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

"I was shocked when I first heard we were going to be performing live," Penny said. "But after that, I started to get really excited."

The group performed in two live shows in New York. But according to Penny every day was different when it came to preparing for the show.

"In the days prior to the show, you do a lot of vocal warm-ups, stage checks, wardrobe, and whatever else the show needs," Penny said. "You have to be very flexible because you don't get your itinerary for the day until that morning."

Prior to participating, Penny said she had "no idea" how much went into a live taping, and what the contestants really saw while they were on stage.

"It's a surreal experience to be standing on stage watching the judges, knowing that you are on a live television show," she added.
After the show is over and the show's judges have given their critiques, voting opens up to America who call in or text to vote on their favorite performance of the night.

"When you are waiting for the voting to begin after you perform, you are wondering 'will we get through?' but then you get a sense of relief because the pressure is off. It's all in the voter's hands now," Penny said. "We knew we did our best on stage and we were just thankful to be there and to have had the chance to perform on that stage where so many giants have been. Plus, it enabled us to get our story out there and bring awareness to the roles a military spouse plays."

However those nerves returned when it came time for the results show.

"They do such a long pause to hype it up. It's nerve-wracking," she said.

"I was shocked when we made it through the first performance," Penny said. "But we were all okay when we didn't make it through the second performance. There were no tears shed, we were just happy to have had the chance to perform."

Penny said even though their "America's Got Talent" experience is over, the women still share a strong bond, and will continue to perform together.

"It's a wonderful group of women I perform with," Penny said. "I'm really excited to see what the future holds for us."

Military spouses interested in auditioning for the Military Spouses Choir can visit for audition information.