An Air Force Entertainer of the Year contestant has strong ties to Albuquerque and Kirtland Air Force Base.
She sat down with the Nucleus to discuss life, the Air Force and her singing endeavors.
Q: How did you get started singing?
A: My mother’s family is musically inclined, so the rest of us fell right in step. As a child, I would go with my mother to her performances and every summer/holiday we spent with grandparents, we would participate in music gatherings. Besides “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” the first song I learned was the national anthem, because Mom was practicing or I was at her performance.
Q: Did you sing in school?
A: I started singing in school in eighth grade at Jimmy Carter Middle School. Before that, I stuck with just orchestra. At West Mesa High School, I expanded and joined the Mariachi as a singer and violin player. I was so excited to perform in a genre that I loved since childhood. The only thing was I would sing these beautiful and heart-wrenching songs, but I don’t speak Spanish, so I had no idea what I was saying.
Q: Do you miss Albuquerque?
A: Every day. I miss the amazing food; the culture; Amadeo’s Pizza off 98th Street, where I used to work; the Duke City skyline; the Balloon Fiesta; the state fair… Basically, I miss everything.
Q: What is your best memory of Kirtland AFB and Albuquerque?
A: My favorite memories of Kirtland AFB are going to the park for vendor days and going up in a hot-air balloon.
My favorite memories of Albuquerque are hanging at the Westgate Community Center after school and during the summer; Cliff’s Amusement Park for my fifth-grade, eighth-grade and 12th-grade end-of-school trips; performing the national anthem at The Pit; cruising Central Avenue with my bestie Jessica Westmoreland; going to my first and last Dukes baseball game with Grace Aldarete; learning and perfecting my violin skills over the years, thanks to Mr. Caulderwood, Ms. King and Ms. Duran; learning and pursuing shooting skills with West Mesa High School Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and my mentor Maj. Mark Hendricks; and so much more.
Q: When did you join the Air Force?
A: I joined the Air Force after commissioning from the U.S. Air Force Academy in May 2011.
Q: What was the motivation behind commissioning?
A: My mother served in the Air Force and was a big influence on me. I was recruited for shooting for the Air Force Academy, so everything just fell into place. The Air Force Academy was a free education, plus a stipend every month, and it was a guaranteed career upon graduation. At first my mother did not want me to go to the Air Force Academy because she had experienced bad graduates. But I knew how I was raised and that I would still be me upon graduation, if not better.
Q: What made you decide to upload the video for vocal uploads?
A: I was walking by a promotional poster and brought the idea to the “Voices of Dyess,” a team of singers I’m a part of, and they turned it down … so I went solo. My husband, Brian, a C-130J pilot, was deployed at the time, and working full time along with taking care of our 2-year-old daughter, Jacquelynn, was a struggle. But the Air Force is big on Comprehensive Airmen Fitness, so I knew I needed to take time for myself to recharge and this was the perfect opportunity to get back into my passion for music. I practiced every day on my commute to work and after I put Jacquelynn to bed. I had to wait till 10 p.m. the night before the video was due to record the video — in my bathroom. I do not like that video, but I won the first competition, so I guess it wasn’t that bad.
Q: How would you describe this experience of being in the competition for the Entertainer of the Year award?
A: It has been a wonderful experience getting to sing, perform and get into character. I never have time to get “dressed up,” so that was a lot of fun. It’s also been a very humbling achievement; there were 20 other contestants just that I could see on YouTube, not counting the countless other participants. And I know beyond that, there are other entertainers who didn’t have the opportunity to participate. So knowing all of that, how could you not be humbled to have made it this far?
Q: Who are your musical influences?
A: First and always my mother, Rhonda McCullough. She is a full-time career woman but still has time to write country songs and perform. Then Patsy Cline, Chris Stapleton, Alicia Keys, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone and, of course, Demi Lovato.
Q: What genre is your favorite to sing?
A: Country music by far; it’s what I was raised on and I love the story-telling aspect of it. I’ve only written one original song and it’s a country song.
Q: Can you explain how the voting works?
A: Absolutely; so you log onto your YouTube account and go to https://youtu.be/dKT7MhyM7Mo or go to Myairforcelife.com and click the link. Then you go to the “Capt. Rachael Jarrell” video and hit the thumbs up button on the video.
Jarrell’s Air Force Vocal Upload can be viewed at https://youtu.be/6uFJw4H00ak or her Entertainer of the Year competition video is at https://youtu.be/dKT7MhyM7Mo.