JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- When Dawn McClure found out there were openings in the American Military Spouses Choir, she propped her smartphone on the mantel, recorded an audition piece and submitted it to the Center for American Military Music Opportunities for consideration.
McClure, whose husband is the housing director at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center here, was chosen as a member and has since traveled with the group to Chicago, Las Vegas and New York, advancing through two rounds of NBC's "America's Got Talent" auditions and now on to the semifinals after judging results were announced Aug. 7. She participated in school choirs and a high school garage band, and recalls putting on her mom’s heels and singing in the house as a little girl. However, over the years singing has been a hobby, not a career, for McClure, who said she is very thankful for this opportunity. "I’ve enjoyed singing throughout my whole life, but I never imagined it would come to fruition like this," she said. "I went a different route in life, but I’ve now been brought back to singing … and thinking back, I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to do anything else." As one of the 37 American Military Spouses Choir members, McClure sings with military spouses from all services. The choir is one of several groups and individual artists supported by Center for American Military Music Opportunities (CAMMO), a nonprofit organization whose main focus is providing music therapy programs for wounded warriors with service-related conditions.
In addition to music therapy, the organization conducts outreach to military members and veterans to connect them with music industry related career opportunities, and develops top-notch music artists by providing coaching, musical arrangements and songwriting workshops.
"It's a neat opportunity, and we're really happy to be a part of this," said Colonel Gregory McClure, Dawn's husband. "What CAMMO is doing is pretty cool, and we were impressed with what they do for wounded warriors even before McClure became a member." To hear the choir perform, one would assume they rehearse tirelessly for hours; however, prior to their Chicago audition for "America's Got Talent," the group had only one full rehearsal.
Members of the American Military Spouses Choir fit rehearsals and performances in between family and work life, and many of the group's members live in various locations across the country.
To blend their musical talents, each member is provided the musical arrangements and recordings of their parts, and the geographically dispersed members practice individually using the provided music and recordings. The members have online sessions where they're able to ask questions and receive specific direction on musical notation and dynamics. "I’m personally honored to be a part of a group of incredibly talented women," McClure said. "Thirty-seven women, and when we come together, we’re one voice." All of that hard work, both individually and as a team, paid off Aug. 7, when the group learned it had made it to the semifinals. McClure and the rest of the choir will travel back to New York for the semifinals, set to begin airing in September.
"Other members and I have talked about performing for the troops overseas and putting prize money back into wounded warrior programs and charity." McClure said and giddily added, "And of course, I’d love to perform at the Super Bowl!"
Her husband, who is currently learning guitar and some aspects of sound engineering, leaked his own agenda, "I'd like to get her into classic rock so we can perform in a little garage band of our own for the neighborhood -- maybe some AC/DC or Bad Company."
Through this experience, the American Military Spouses Choir, referred to on CAMMO’s website as "the force behind the force," have not only been able to do what they love, they’ve also been able to enjoy a renewed sense of appreciation and belief in the country’s patriotism, they said. "You just can’t imagine what it’s like when we walk on the stage," McClure said. "Viewers at home don’t get to see that the audience is just screaming ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!’ before we even begin singing. I feel so privileged to be a part of that."