Kan. native spreads musical wings

  • Published
  • By Ann Patton
  • Academy Spirit staff writer
Cadet 1st Class Jill Larson hesitated about coming to the Academy in 2007, unsure whether she would have the opportunity to sing, but the Dodge City, Kan., native and Academy Preparatory School graduate was happy to be proven wrong.

Music has given the Falcons and Kansas Jayhawks fan an outlet from the rigors of cadet responsibilities. Even in Basic Cadet Training she would recall singer and songwriter Josh Groban's "Don't Give Up."

Cadet Larson, a member of Cadet Squadron 39, is winding up four years with the Cadet Chorale as this year's president and is also a board member of the Blue Bards theater group. In addition, she sang with the Academy Singers for three years.

While growing up, the daughter of a clergyman had 12 years of both piano and ballet training. In high school she performed in such musicals as "Grease," "Hello, Dolly" and "Guys and Dolls." As a Blue Bard she performed in "Kiss Me Kate" and "Arsenic and Old Lace" and played the lead role in "The Fantastics." She also soloed for Handel's "Messiah" for the last two years in the Cadet Chapel's annual holiday performance.

The Chorale and Academy Singers kept her on the move outside of the Academy as well, with appearances in New York City's Macy's Parade and at Carnegie Hall and St. Patrick's Cathedral. She and her fellow cadet singers also performed for the Fiesta Bowl and Disney World and audiences in Fort Worth, Texas and for a hometown audience in Kansas.

Cadet Larson, the Chorale's first soprano, fondly recalled traveling to Egypt and Morocco in 2009. While there, she sang "Amazing Grace" for an orphanage. Even though the children could not understand the words, they sat very still.

"It was pretty awesome," she said.

Cadet Larson credits her hometown church congregation and her personal faith for much of her inspiration.

"The congregation helped me grow spiritually and musically," she said. "As for faith, I can't have one without the other."

She has one brother in high school, and her sister, Jami, is in the Academy Class of 2012.

The humanities major loves all kinds of music and learning new pieces and styles. Groban is one of her favorite musicians for his ability to use his voice without electronic tampering. She also enjoys Celine Dion and Canadian singer-songwriter and actor Michael Bublé as well as classical artists such as Mozart, Schubert, Chopin and Franz List.

"They're all incredible," she said.

Outside of the Chorale and Singers practices and performances, she also finds opportunities to sing, namely to songs on her car radio and in the shower.

"The acoustics are so good in there," she said with a laugh.

She also enjoys classical literature, acting, shopping and golfing.

Academy Chorale director and music specialist Dr. Joseph Galema praised Cadet Larson for her voice and her contributions.

"Jill has one of the most beautiful soprano voices I've ever experienced," he said. "The lyrical quality is well-suited to Broadway as well as classical music."

He called her leadership of the Chorale "exemplary."

"She truly cares for everyone in the organization and makes sure that all are focused yet have fun," he said.

After graduation, the newly commissioned 2nd Lt. Larson will head to training as an intelligence officer, her first career choice.

"It is an important career field because troops need to be as safe as possible out there. I want to contribute to that safety and letting them know what they will be up against in the fight," she said.

In the meantime, Cadet Larson remains thankful for her years on the Hill and the friendships she has formed. She also wants to continue with music while in the Air Force.

"This was the best decision I ever made. I have been blessed with all kinds of opportunities," she said.

Editor's Note: Cadet Larson became 2nd Lt. Jill Larson and received her Bachelor of Science degree in humanities May 26.