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Tech. Sgt. Lamon L. Mabron will have to commit about 70 songs to memory as keyboardist for the 2008 Tops in Blue team.

Tech. Sgt. Lamon L. Mabron will have to commit about 70 songs to memory as keyboardist for the 2008 Tops in Blue team. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Tech. Sgt. Lamon L. Mabron will have to commit about 70 songs to memory as keyboardist for the 2008 Tops in Blue team.

Tech. Sgt. Lamon L. Mabron will have to commit about 70 songs to memory as keyboardist for the 2008 Tops in Blue team. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Mabron is one of two military members from Pacific Air Forces to make this year's team of traveling entertainers.

Mabron is one of two military members from Pacific Air Forces to make this year's team of traveling entertainers. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — When Tech. Sgt. Lamon L. Mabron shipped off to boot camp fresh out of high school, he figured he was kissing his dream of a music career goodbye.

He nearly did.

Mabron, 29, turned down two music scholarships to college.

“I was in basic training” when the scholarships were offered, he said. “I was so scared, I couldn’t even bother the drill instructor. I thought, let’s just get this over with.”

A classical pianist who started playing at 12, Mabron never gave up music. He found nightclubs and bands to play in wherever his Air Force career took him.

Trying out for Tops In Blue — the Air Force’s expeditionary entertainment group — crossed his mind, but the timing was never right, he said.

Until recently.

A poster at Misawa’s Mokuteki Community Center caught his eye.

Last fall, the base’s community center hosted a Tops in Blue audition, taping airmen and their talents and sending the videotape to Tops In Blue headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, base officials said.

“I figured I would give it a shot,” Mabron said.

Last week, the Air Force announced the names of 25 airmen selected for the Tops In Blue 2008 “Deja Blue” tour. Mabron was one of just two airmen selected from a Pacific Air Forces base. He’ll play the keyboards.

Also on the team from PACAF is vocalist Oliver Dagum of the 734th Air Mobility Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Mabron was a state champion pianist in high school, but earning a spot with Tops In Blue was far from a given, he said. Personality, attitude and ability to work with others are considered alongside talent, Mabron said.

At the Tops In Blue worldwide talent competition last month in San Antonio, where the final cuts were made, Mabron was grouped with 10 other people. It felt like being part of the MTV reality show “The Real World,” he said.

“You have to go everywhere with these 10 people,” he said.

On the stage, Mabron not only had to dazzle everyone on the keyboards, but he had to dance, act, sing and try comedy.

“They take you completely out of your comfort zone,” he said.

The schedule during the 10-day event was grueling, with the airmen on the go from 7:30 a.m. to sometimes 1 or 2 a.m.

“By the time you get home, eat dinner, shower and sleep, you can’t believe the alarm is going off again,” he said. “You think it’s a bad joke.”

It’s a taste of life on the road for Tops In Blue cast members.

The 2008 tour kicks off Feb. 2 and will consist of about 125 shows in Europe, throughout the Pacific, in the States and in combat zones, according to an Air Force news release.

Mabron, who works for the 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Misawa, loves his sleep but will gladly give up some shut-eye to play keyboard for a year, he said.

“If music is your passion, and you get a chance to do it full time, there’s nothing better than that,” he said.

p>Feeling musical? Join Tops in Blue

Tops In Blue is looking for a few good airmen for its 2008 tour.

The Air Force’s expeditionary entertainers still have open slots for trumpet, trombone, saxophone and guitar players, according to a Jan. 15 Air Force news release.

The team also needs technicians and drivers.

“We’re looking to fill a complete band,” Jeri White, production manager for Air Force Entertainment, said in the release. “Applicants don’t have to have professional training to qualify. They can be self-taught. All they need is talent, a strong work ethic and the desire to improve during the touring season.”

Technicians work with audio, video, lighting and staging equipment.

Vehicle operators are needed to drive the Tops In Blue custom motor coach and tractor-trailer truck throughout the United States during the tour, the release said.

Interested airmen can call Air Force Entertainment at (210) 652-6566, or go to www.topsinblue.com for more information.

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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