Sonjia Penny of Fort Eustis is heading back to New York City today to rehearse with the American Military Spouses Choir in preparation for another round of NBC television's "America's Got Talent" competition.
The vocalist, wife of Army Col. Brent Anthony Penny, said she is the only Hampton Roads representative of the 50-member group.
The choir has reached the semi-finals of the competition and has already performed at Radio City Music Hall in New York. They're set to sing there again on Tuesday, Sept. 2, an NBC spokesman said.
Standing on stage at Radio City is mind boggling, Penny said.
"When you step into that theater, it's an overwhelming experience," she said in a telephone interview. "It was really awesome."
Getting to sing with a group that shares a common goal is also exciting, she said. "It’s been fun to share this with the other ladies. It's wonderful being able to support all military personnel out there, the people still people being deployed. It's an honor to be the force behind the force. We’re honored."
The American Military Spouses Choir draws members from all four branches of the United States military, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. All the spouses have partners who are currently serving. The group was assembled in May 2012 by the non-profit Center for American Military Music Opportunities.
"They wish to inspire and support not only their fellow military family and service members, but the nation as a whole," a bio from "America's Got Talent" reads.
Penny said she grew up in Woodbridge, where she met her husband when they were both in high school. The couple's been married now for 27 years and has two sons, ages 18 and 21. The Pennys have lived at Fort Eustis since 2010.
Until now, most of Penny's singing has taken place in church. She and her husband attend All Nations Church in Newport News.
Penny, who hasn't yet been featured as a soloist with the group, said the highlight of the "America's Got Talent" competition so far has been the choir's performance of Mariah Carey's song "Hero" and receiving a standing ovation from both audience and judges.
"It was really moving," she said. "There was some military in the audience and my husband was there, too. They were just so responsive. It was a great experience."
Has she felt nervous performing on national television?
"I was nervous. I guess I have this excited laughter. The whole thing makes me giggle when I think how big the crowd is. But I was more excited than nervous. I don’t feel scared, because there are so many of us on that stage supporting each other. I don’t feel afraid."
The following clip includes interviews with choir members and the group's performance of "Hero."
Penny's husband had the following to say about his wife's participation: "I was incredibly proud of my wife and the other spouses. The spouses are unsung heroes and real combat multipliers. Without the drive, focus and determination of the spouses to step in and take care of the home front, service members could not deploy and focus 100% on the mission. Furthermore, many of the spouses have had to sacrifice their singing talents to accompany the service member. This is a tremendous opportunity for the spouses to showcase their talents and allow America to observe it and receive the appropriate recognition. I am glad my wife decided to participate with the other spouses in the American Military Spouses Choir."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun