By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — When Staff Sgt. Daniel Knight, 21st Medical Group public health manager, auditioned for Tops in Blue in 2003, his dream was cut short. “I made it almost to the end (of the audition process) and then I dislocated my knee and they said I wouldn’t be ready,” he said.
After that, thoughts of auditioning for Tops in Blue were set on the back burner until Knight received some encouragement from a former member.
Knight has been playing the trombone since he was in the fourth grade. “I’ve never really sat it down,” he said.
Knight put together his audition package for a spot as an instrumentalist, including an application and a YouTube video of a trombone performance. “They asked me, ‘How well can you dance, sing? Do you have any comical routines ready? Can you drive a bus?’,” he said.
In November, Knight received word that he was selected for the next step of the audition process. In January, 80 finalists convened at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, for a 10-day temporary duty assignment. During those 10 days, Knight played his trombone, sang, acted out voices, and danced in front of different panels of judges.
The 10 days of smaller auditions led up to the final performance. “It’s almost like American Idol. They bring you up on stage, there are almost 2,000 people in the crowd, they have professional sound, recording, lights. It’s a blast,” Knight said.
Knight performed “Autumn Leaves,” a jazz standard, on the trombone.
Several weeks after returning, Knight was informed that he, along with 34 other Airmen, would be touring the world this year with Tops in Blue.
“It’s going to be nerve-wracking and a lot of fun at the same time. It’s going to be hard leaving the family behind,” he said.
The end of March, Knight will leave his wife, two kids and Peterson AFB for a year-long permissive TDY. “The next step is staging,” he said. “It’s six to eight weeks of learning the hour and a half show that they perform. After those grueling six or eight weeks, they release the schedule and then they hit the road going from base to base.”
During those two months, Knight will memorize anywhere from 80 to 120 songs and the choreography to go along with the show. Primarily, he will be playing trombone in the band, though he might be asked to sing or do another routine in the show.
“They need everybody to do everything,” Knight said. Not only will the performers be putting on high-energy shows but will also be tasked with setting up the stage and equipment.
The group will tour all over the United States, including stops at Peterson AFB, Schriever AFB and the Air Force Academy, as well as tour overseas in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.