Cannon airman takes on stage life

Cannon Connections photo: Liliana Castillo Senior Airman Anthoney Williams of the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron played songs by Louis Armstrong during a New Orleans-themed portion of the show.

By Clarence Plank: Cannon Connections

One of Cannon’s own performed in the local performance of Tops In Blue.

Senior Airman Marc Hightower is on the last leg of the 2009 tour. Hightower plays the piano, saxophone and sings. He said his experience traveling with the group of airmen is different than he expected.

“I’ve had a lot of ups and a lot of downs, but it has all helped me to grow,” Hightower said. “I didn’t know what to expect when I joined. I thought I was just going to be playing music. I found out it is a lot more than just playing music.”

For Hightower, the biggest surprise was helping to set up and break down equipment before and after a performance.

“When we first started doing set up it used to take us six to eight hours to just set up,” Hightower said. “We would do an hour and half show and then tear down in six to eight hours. It got to a point where we started to gel as a team and learning our roles.”

Hightower said at that point they could set up and tear down in two hours, which gave them more hours of sleep after a busy day.

“We have a nine-piece band,” Hightower said. “We have a complete horn section and rhythm section.”

Hightower is on keyboard three, which plays bass. Hightower said they didn’t know how good he could play when he auditioned so they put him on the bass keyboard.

“While we were training I proved myself so they gave me half of the show,” Hightower said.

Hightower’s tour of duty has carried him to 26 countries, including Europe, Canada and all over the U.S. Hightower said his favorite place was Japan.

“It’s like a melting pot over there. To me, it is just beautiful,” Hightower said. “We went to Paris. I’m from New York City and Paris reminded me a lot of New York City.”

Tops In Blue is a one-year tour of duty program open to all activate duty airmen from all career fields. Airmen can join Tops In Blue by submitting an application or video by going to their Web site and following the information there.

“If we are interested, then we will invite them to the World Wide Talent Search, which takes places at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas,” Bob Storck, operations manager for Air Force Entertainment, said. “This year it took place this past January and at that competition we select the Tops In Blue team.”

Storck said depending on the show they usually have 35 to 40 people on tour and over the course of the tour they might lose a few members.

“Once they finish with the Tops In Blue team, they will go back to their original jobs,” Storck said.

Cannon Airman 1st Class Jette Warnick was chosen to join the 2010 tour of Tops In Blue.