“Cadet Choir Offers Testimony, Patriotism,” Ensign, July 2004, 77–78
Like other cadets, John Spillane was overwhelmed by his first week of Basic Cadet Training (dubbed “Beast Week”) at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The regimen, he says, was “intense and intimidating,” and by the time Sunday rolled around, Brother Spillane felt very alone.
As he descended into the basement of the Cadet Chapel where the Latter-day Saint cadets meet, he heard the strains of “Come, Come, Ye Saints” (Hymns, no. 30) and was overcome by feelings of comfort. “I sat … and cried, wishing I could stay there forever,” Brother Spillane explains.
So when he heard about the LDS Cadet Choir at the Academy, he knew he needed to join. Brother Spillane says, “The hymns of Zion could bring me the peace I needed.”
Brother Spillane is now a senior at the Academy and the assistant cadet-in-charge of the choir. For him and 36 other Latter-day Saint cadets, the weekly practices and performance tours aren’t just a break from the rigors of studying. In addition to gaining personal peace and direction, choir members are able to express their testimonies to others, show their patriotism, and build strong friendships. The choir, which was organized in 1995, performs at a variety of Academy events and tours throughout the western United States.
“We are not a professional choir, and in fact, the rigorous Academy schedule leaves cadets very little time to rehearse,” says Major Dan Gillespie, an instructor of military strategic studies at the Academy and the officer-in-charge of the choir. “Many of them have to bring their dinner to rehearsal and eat between numbers. And yet as I listen to the cadets there is a power there. The Spirit is with the choir and takes their message to the listeners.”
Colonel Parris C. Neal, senior military professor in the department of electrical engineering and bishop of the Colorado Springs 14th (YSA) Ward, Colorado Springs Colorado North Stake, notes that the influence of the Latter-day Saint cadets is a powerful one. “The small group [is] well known and respected across the institution. … They are known as hard-working [and] honest and [as having] a level of maturity that is above the norm.”
For the cadets, the choir is more than just singing. “Sharing the message of the gospel through song is a powerful experience,” freshman Andrew Groberg says. “The cadets are proud to be serving our Heavenly Father and serving the nation.”