TOPS IN BLUE has an official web site. You'll find information on how to join on their site. Click here to download applications (.mil domains only).
Official USAF Fact Sheet on TOPS IN BLUE.
For Those Who Are Applying
Now is not too early to begin fine-tuning your talent! Find the time in your day to do this. It will never hurt you to practice your music reading skills. Vocalists and instrumentalists alike need to work on scales as well as practicing a variety of musical styles. Any vocalist can consider any amount of time behind a tuned piano well spent. Training your ears and voice for pitch is very important. This also prepares your voice for the continuous singing that you will be doing while in TOPS IN BLUE staging.
If you feel you may be a little "out of step" regarding your dancing skills, start doing something about it. If nothing else, enroll in a Jazzercise or an aerobics class where you can start learning routines and get your rhythm, as well as bring your cardiovascular fitness up to speed. If you smoke, quit now. Smoking is not allowed on the bus. On tour, you are the road crew, whether or not you're a vocalist, dancer or instrumentalist. You and the others will be moving 35,000 pounds of equipment twice a day. In between that, you're on stage dancing, singing and in general working out like you never have before.
About songs you might want to use for the competition: Find a song that you sound good doing. One that suits your vocal style and range. If you have a clear voice, you wouldn't want to pick a Janis Joplin song that would make you sound unnatural. Do not pick a song because it happens to be the number one song on the charts. Just because it's number one does not mean it will be used on next year's tour or that you'll go to Worldwide.
If you're an instrumentalist and were classically trained on guitar, show us how well you were trained. "Falseta No 1" from Soleares of Paco de Lucia would be a better choice than Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption." The same applies to dancers, comedians and dramatists.
If possible, find a prior TOPS IN BLUE tour member in your area. They may be willing to help you. Don't know where to ask? Post a message here.
The bottom line is: you only have 5 minutes to showcase your talent. Do not just sing it or play it, but perform it to the best of your ability. Show us why you should be TOPS IN BLUE!
If you make it to Worldwide, you will be given the opportunity to audition for various other skills such as dancing, vocalist or comedy. Do all of them - even if you can't dance, do the dance audition. You may have made it to Worldwide as a vocalist, but you may be selected to TOPS IN BLUE because of some other ability that will show up in those auditions, with your vocal skills an added plus. (Sam Charleston, the bus driver for the 2004 team, had a roller-skating solo in the '04 show for this reason.)
Where Does the Journey Begin?
Known by it's Air Force designation as building 7249 on Lackland AFB, it was called the Chaparral Theater even after TOPS IN BLUE acquired it in 1980 for use as a rehearsal facility. For many years thereafter it was nothing more than a base theater that never showed movies. In 1987 TOPS IN BLUE decided it was time for a building that matched the quality of it's people, one that would allow them to aim even higher, so a renovation program was started. The project was completed in 1992 and a new name had to go along with the change.
Now known as the Production Center, it is where every TOPS IN BLUE tour begins it's six week gestation. From April to June of each year, the lights are on virtually all the time as the dancers are learning their steps, the vocalists are trying it "one more time from the top", and the band is learning to play "with authority". Everyone is simply rehearsing, rehearsing, and rehearsing. Until you can't stand up ... then do it again!
The Production Center is not only the place where the latest TOPS IN BLUE team learns their show and how to be TOPS IN BLUE, it is also a link to our past and a celebration of the commitment to excellence that is TOPS IN BLUE. You can't go anywhere in this building and not be reminded of both.
Ready to take a look around?
This is what you see when you step inside
You'll see this just to the right of the main entrance. It has pictures of TOPS IN BLUE teams from the Fifties. Across from it (not visible) are more pictures from that era.
Behind the wall that's mounted on is the dance floor, with two mirrored walls. Mounted up near the ceiling is a closed-circuit TV camera, a speaker and a TV monitor. The green wall in the mirror's reflection contains plaques and pictures of TIB's historic 1993 trip to Central and Eastern Europe.
Let's head on into the main rehearsal area. Here's the stage. The island in the center of the room is where the main audio and lighting boards go - both audio and lighting systems are now permanently wired into the building. Then, standing on that stage, we see house right with the break area partly visible. Behind that wall is the costume room. Then there's house left with the lockers. Behind that row of citations is the graphics room.
On the house right side, there are the tour citations for the years 1982 - 1976 and then the break area with microwave, freezer, sink and refrigerator. Team members have little time to use it though. On the side wall are pictures depicting the legendary entertainer Bob Hope and his association with TOPS IN BLUE over the years. There is also the model of the set we used in our Super Bowl XIX half-time show in January 1985. (The set was designed by a prior TOPS IN BLUE team member.) The glass case contains plates and plaques to TOPS IN BLUE from places around the world.
On the house left side are the citations for the years 1993 - 1983. There are also lockers for the team and mementos from TOPS IN BLUE shows in the Far East.
Perhaps the greatest change, and the one that invokes nearly universal amazement from priors who remember the place as the Chaparral, is that they now have showers in the building. That's an indication of the nearly continuous nature of TOPS IN BLUE staging.
The stateside portion of every TOPS IN BLUE tour travels in a caravan of two trucks and one bus. One truck ("Silver Bullet") hauls the equipment and another one carries the stage that is used for large outdoor shows. The cast and crew travel in our specially-modified tour bus that we call "Music Box". Drivers of the vehicles are TOPS IN BLUE team members. Overseas, TOPS IN BLUE uses local ground transportation and U. S. Air Force cargo airplanes to go from region to region.
Want to see what it's like inside the bus? Apply to become a member of next year's TOPS IN BLUE team!
For More Information
Further information about TOPS IN BLUE can be obtained from your local Services Squadron. You may also contact Air Force Entertainment at the following address:
Air Force Entertainment
10100 Reunion Place, Suite 403
San Antonio, TX 78216-4138
Fax (210) 652-7033
DSN fax 487-7033
Office hours are 0730 - 1630 (7:30am - 4:30pm) U. S. central time, Monday - Friday.
See also the official Air Force Manual (AFM 34-236) regarding the Air Force Entertainment program, or visit the official TOPS IN BLUE site.
If you would like to contact one of the team members, it is best to write them at the following address rather than send a letter to a base that the team will be performing at:
<team member's name> TIB 05
c/o Air Force Entertainment
10100 Reunion Place, Suite 403
San Antonio, TX 78216-4138