On a national stage: Cadet Chorale sings at BCS championship

  • Published
  • By Leslie Finstein and 2nd Lt. Meredith Kirchoff
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Five minutes to go, four, three, two, one minute left. "Everybody line up!" Two blue lines form, last minute adjustments to uniforms take place, "Give your jacket a good pull before you head out, makes it look sharp."

Hair in place, ties straight, remember where to stand? Just like we practiced -- OK, it's time to walk.

Two lines trail out from the locker room beneath the stands, guides lead through the flurry of backstage activity. Stage hands and safety personnel clap and look on with admiration as this sharply dressed group of twenty walks by.

Up the ramp, craning for a look, the underside of the BCS National Championship logo is visible on a banner above keeping the full breadth of the stadium from view.

A sea of orange and yellow, thousands of eyes press down on the stadium floor eager to see the Oregon Ducks and Auburn Tigers fight for the biggest title in college football-- the BCS National Championship.

The Air Force Academy Cadet Chorale waits patiently, composed at the sideline for their moment to take center stage. They are here with a purpose, to sing the National Anthem for a crowd of 78,000 plus in the stadium and over 27 million viewers at home.

Auburn University and the University of Oregon went head to head in the BCS National Championship game at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., Monday. The U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chorale sang the national anthem prior to the game's 6:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time kick-off.

"It was surreal and incredible! It was such a rush after we practiced in the empty stadium to see it filled up, surrounding us with lights and cameras and noise," said Cadet 1st Class Rebecca Branyen. "It seems like we got ready for hours before and it was finished in seconds, but it was an absolutely amazing feeling when we finished and all I could hear was this roar of applause."

The Cadet Chorale is composed of men and women from all four cadet classes who represent the Academy through music. Of the chorale's fifty members, only twenty were chosen to perform at the national title game.

"When I got the call, I asked how many cadets I could take. They (the BCS staff) said I could take up to 20 cadets, so of course I wanted to take all 20 cadets," said Chorale director Dr. Joseph Galema.

"We had to come up with a process of deciding who would go. We made that decision, and then we made the cuts. There were a few cadets who couldn't go because of other sports or something like that, but most of the cadets on the first cut said yes they could go," Dr. Galema explained.

When asked how it felt to be chosen for this event, Cadet 2nd Class Curtis Hansen spoke for the group when he said, "I think it's obvious that it's a once in a lifetime, so we're all pretty stoked."

The trip to Phoenix began Saturday night, as most of the cadets flew in from the Academy. The Chorale, along with Dr. Galema and Chaplain (Capt.) Darren Duncan, arrived in Phoenix as guests of the BCS, with lodging and rides supplied by the committee.

Although it sounds like the makings of a glamorous vacation, the cadets were there to work. A group of eight cadets headed out into the early morning sunlight of Phoenix Sunday to the studios of Channel 3, KTVK, for an appearance on the television program "Good Morning Arizona." Later that same day, all 20 cadets headed off to the Phoenix Veterans Administration hospital to visit and perform for veterans in the facility's community living center. Among them were veterans of Vietnam, Korea, and even World War II. Following the performance, the cadets spent almost an hour speaking with the vets.

"That was by far the most humbling part of the trip: talking to World War II and Vietnam veterans who have truly made enormous sacrifices, along with their families," Cadet 1st Class Kyle Smith said. "It put into perspective what we are preparing for during our time here, which I know we all tend to forget every once in a while."

Gameday meant a long afternoon of escorts, rehearsals and pre-game festivities. Once at the University of Phoenix stadium, home of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, the Chorale group was ushered into the stadium for a rehearsal on the field, followed by a pregame tailgate. Timing was tight; security and procedures for field access were even tighter.

At 4:30 p.m., the group waited for game time in their locker room below the stands. The preparation was done, voices were warm, and uniforms were ready. Less than two hours later, the cadets made that unforgettable walk onto the stage of a lifetime.