By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Millions of bright, neon lights and throngs of revelers packed the streets, turning the city hall area of downtown Seoul from night into day.
The last moments of 2008 were ticking down and from among the gathered masses one young man was about to have an epiphany. Singers and entertainers took to the stage, building anticipation for the moment when the numbers on the gargantuan digital screen perched overhead would reach “0” and signal the entrance of a new year full of hope and promise.
Among the entertainers was Tei, a popular ballad singer. During Tei’s show Jay Lane, in the midst of his epiphany, realized he wanted to be up there as well, delighting crowds with his own performance. That night, Lane knew the turning of the year would include more than a change of numbers on the calendar.
Jay, son of Lt. Col. Joel Lane, Colorado Springs Regional Command Post chief at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, found success as a Korean Pop music performer. The style, known as K-Pop, originated in South Korea and is known for its broad use of audiovisual elements.
“I always liked music, but never saw myself doing it,” Jay said. “I saw Tei perform and I fell in love with the idea of performing on stage.”
Coincidentally, years later Jay was on the same label as Tei.
Jay, who is part Korean, started going out with his friends on weekends singing karaoke following his father’s reassignment from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, to Osan Air Base, South Korea, Joel said. It was during this time Jay began auditioning for groups, but he met with little success because his skills were too raw. At this point growing up in a military family began to pay off.
Joel said being raised in an Air Force family helped Jay in a couple of ways. First, living in different parts of the U.S. and overseas exposed him to different cultures, setting Jay up for success, especially in his chosen industry. The other is in the area of discipline.
When Jay was selected to be part of the group Beyond the Limit, or BTL as they are known by fans, he entered into a training program that was very precise and structured, not unlike the military. He took part in Air Force Junior ROTC, so that helped.
“Training and living with nine guys in a dorm required discipline,” Joel said. “They ate together, went to the gym together, did voice training together… the band members told him he seemed like he was in the military.”
Jay agreed with his dad. He said there is no doubt his life as a member of a military family impacted his success immensely. He said his father ran the house with the military mindset that sitting around doing nothing was a waste of time.
“My dad stressed the importance of hard work, which I eventually picked up and live by now,” said Jay. “I won’t spend a whole day inside, or have days where nothing productive is done. I look up to my dad for his work ethic. I aspire to be that good.”
Another thing Jay took from military life and applied to his career pursuit was resiliency. He auditioned for numerous labels with varying degrees of success with dozens of failed auditions before achieving acceptance. Refining his singing and dancing skills, improving his Korean language abilities and going out day after day for auditions, Jay kept telling himself the next one would be the big one.
During the process he kept those auditioning efforts secret from his family. He wanted to wait until he “made it” before sharing his desire to be a K-Pop star.
“Let’s face it,” Jay said. “Singing isn’t exactly the most stable and safe job out there. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, or whatever aspirations they may have had for me.”
Joel was surprised when Jay announced he was chosen as a final member of BTL.
“It’s a volatile industry,” Joel said. “Only about one in 10 make it to the debut.”
But after Jay debuted with the group and travelled to Hong Kong to perform a series of shows and appearances, his father was pleased at the fruit of his efforts.
“He beat the odds to get to that first step,” said Joel.
Despite the hard work and rejection along the way, Jay is now fully enjoying his K-Pop life. Yes, he admits days with little or no sleep because of the 3 a.m. wake-up calls for hair and make-up applications are challenging, and so is not being able to eat whatever he wants so he can maintain top physical shape. But, it’s all worth it when he gets in front of the crowd.
“I love performing on stage in front of people,” he said. “Whether it is few or many, I always love seeing people’s reactions. I mean having the opportunity to stand in front of people performing is hands down the best.”
BTL was disbanded in early 2016, but that hasn’t stopped Jay. He is a DJ on the global radio station Arirang, his fluency in English fitting the station’s direction. He also has a potential role on a reality show based on the process of becoming part of a K-Pop group. No matter what his future holds, Jay is appreciative of the role his Air Force upbringing played in all of it.
“If it wasn’t for the military, I would have never even moved to Korea and reconnected to my heritage,” he said. “I hated the idea of moving (to Korea) at first, but (it’s) 10 years later and I don’t want to be anyplace but here.”