Military News

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

SJ Airman takes talents to Tops in Blue stage

by Senior Airman Ashley J. Thum
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/25/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C.  -- "Music is one of my biggest passions."

One of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base's own, Airman 1st Class Mitchell Dixon, recently channeled his passion for music into an audition for Tops in Blue and was inducted into their noteworthy ranks for the 2015 worldwide tour.

Dixon is currently an aerospace propulsion journeyman with the 4th Component Maintenance Squadron where he repairs F-15E Strike Eagle engine modules. Now, he's looking forward to joining an elite ensemble of Airmen as a male vocalist.

Dating back to the 1950s, what began as a talent contest that was an alternative to the wealth of athletic competitions already in place has now become a group dedicated to showcasing some of the Air Force's brightest stars.

"I knew about it before I joined, and one day I happened to be passing through the (4th) Medical Group and I overheard people talking about it," Dixon said. "I asked them for the information and then I sent in a video."

Dixon said he wasn't sure if he would get an audition, but when the call came in, he wasted no time jumping at the opportunity.

"I was actually on leave, and my commander called me and said Tops in Blue had contacted him," Dixon said. "I actually yelled `Yo!' I ended up coming back from leave early, I got all of my outprocessing done in one day - on a Friday - and I stepped off on that Sunday."

Dixon traveled to San Antonio, Texas, for a 10-day audition that he described as "life-changing."

"They treat you like family, even before you're part of the group," Dixon said. "We did these things called `give-backs,' where we would go into the community and sing to elderly people in assisted living homes. They didn't have anything, some of them didn't even have families. Seeing the connections that were being made, especially with something that I'm as passionate about as music ... you can't put that into words."

Of course, the audition wouldn't have been an audition without a few performances.

"Just because you fell under one category didn't mean that you didn't have to audition for the other categories," Dixon said. "Everyone did a vocal, dance and instrumental audition, and had a personal, four-on-one interview with the directors of the program. They wanted to see how we handled pressure, what our temperament was like, how we dealt with others, and if there were other factors that would affect us while on tour."

Dixon explained the evaluators weren't looking for exact copies of famous performers, but rather for an "X-factor."

"They want a person with a decent amount of raw, possibly undeveloped, talent, and more importantly, a good attitude," Dixon said. "Some of the most talented people won't get picked because of how they carry themselves. It's more about who you are than what you can do."

Although he was selected as a singer he said he has several different areas of expertise, including rapping and playing the guitar, drums, bass and piano.

"The first time I can remember being put on a keyboard was at about 3 years old," Dixon said. "My father and I lived in a studio apartment in New York and he would set me on his lap and have me play the keys. Whenever I would get in trouble he would make me go to my room and listen to jazz music and read books."

While growing up, Dixon alternated between living with his father and then living with his mother in Atlanta, Georgia.

"(At my father's house,) I slept on an elevated bed and I would sleep over top of him producing (music,)" Dixon said. "You couldn't hear the music, but you could hear him playing the keys. It got to the point where I would have trouble sleeping when I got back to Atlanta because I wasn't hearing that at night. Music is a very familiar thing to me."

Dixon said he doesn't practice too often, but he does listen to music regularly, analyzing the notes.

"I can sit and listen to the same song over and over for hours and pick apart every little detail, from the reverberation in a high hat (cymbals) to the compression on a bass or kick drum," Dixon said. "It's the never-ending cycle of `How was this sound put together?' `Can I replicate it?' `Can I use part of what I've done and create something totally different?'"

Ironically for someone who is no stranger to performing - he's participated in everything from choir to high school band programs, and from spoken word to rapping -Dixon's outlook on his upcoming Tops in Blue tour was best evidenced not by his words, but by the pregnant pauses while describing it.

"I would pay out of my own pocket to go," Dixon said. "Knowing that I have the opportunity to serve my country in a way that's a lot more up close and personal than my normal job is indescribable."

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