SONGS OF SUPPORTPublished 11:27pm Friday, August 16, 2013
Military wife with local ties appears on national television competition
If you watch the upcoming semi-finals of NBC’s hit show America’s Got Talent, you’ll see a woman whose journey to the AGT stage started in Troy.
Erin Whitehead, originally from Tallahassee, Fla., was studying music and theater at Troy University in the mid 90s when the direction of her life changed.
“At that time, I had no interest in getting married and having kids,” Whitehead explained. “I wanted to be on Broadway and had dreams of being a great performer, and then this handsome Marine walked into Tony’s karaoke bar one night.”
The handsome Marine was Joey Whitehead, a 1994 graduate of Goshen High School who began his military career right after high school.
“I didn’t give up my dreams, I just adjusted them,” Whitehead said. “I realized that in order to love my husband and support him I had to change course a little bit.”
Now a mom of two – Emma, 1, and Morgan, 12 – Whitehead and her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph E. Whitehead, make their home in Fort Huachuca, Ariz. where Joey is part of a U.S. Marine Corps detachment at the army post. There, Whitehead works from home as digital editor of Military Spouse magazine at MilitarySpouse.com
A little more than a year ago, Whitehead saw an open call for female spouses of active duty military members who would make up a choir to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. She auditioned and made the cut.
“It was just a fabulous opportunity,” Whitehead said. “I can’t even describe how it is to be putting my two passions together – music and the military spouses community.”
The American Military Spouses Choir is made up of women ranging in age from about 20 to 56. Some women are expecting their first child, Whitehead said, and some have grandchildren.
Because the women who are choir members represent the U.S. Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force and are from all parts of the country, practicing for performances is unique. Whitehead said music and tracks are sent to the ladies to practice individually and some rehearsals are held online via Skype.
The Kennedy Center performance with the American Military Spouses Choir sparked new avenues for expressing the choir’s message of support for the United States and the men and women who serve and protect the country.
With the backing of the Center for American Military Music Opportunities, the choir auditioned for America’s Got Talent. And they just keep climbing their way to the top. Semi-final performance dates have not been released for publicity just yet, but Whitehead hopes that friends and family everywhere will vote to keep the group in.
“More than that, though, just tune in and listen,” Whitehead said. “We hope that people can hear the story we are telling with our music. We are so blessed because we are military spouses and see every single day what it means to be someone who has committed their life to this country. We hope that America can see our service members through our eyes.”
The rolls have switched a little at home, but Whitehead said her husband is very supportive of her opportunity to perform for the country.
“He is usually the one that leaves and I stay at home,” Whitehead said. “I know it is different for him, but he is doing a great job. He is supportive and said he doesn’t mind because I have supported his career for 14 years.”
Performing for a television audience and being recognized is an adjustment for Whitehead, too.
“It’s such a transition to come home and switch gears,” Whitehead said. “After New York, we had gotten used to stage makeup and having people do our hair. But what a unique experience it is to live in both worlds.”
Whitehead said, after her first television performance, she had more than 250 Facebook notifications from friends and family and her phone was filled with supportive messages. But one of her biggest fans lives here in Pike County.
“We are just so excited that the choir has advanced to the semi-finals,” said Judy Craft, Whitehead’s mother-in-law. “I think it is great. I am so proud and these ladies are all very talented.”
Craft’s other son, Master Sgt. James Whitehead, is also a Marine and her son-in-law is a captain in the Army.
“We have strong military ties,” Craft said. “So I appreciate what these ladies are doing.”
If chosen as the winner of America’s Got Talent, Whitehead and the other ladies of the choir will be given their own show in Las Vegas.
You can read more about the American Military Spouses Choir at cammomusic.org and nbc.com/americas-got-talent. Past America’s Got Talent performances by the choir are available at the NBC site and on YouTube.com.