ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
The sound of applause echoes off the tall, dark walls, filling the dimly lit auditorium with the irregular beat of hundreds of people clapping. An “American Idol” style theme bumps through the sound system as colorful lights flash across the stage, waiting for him and his guitar to come take their place in the spotlight.
“Hi, I’m Senior Airman James Pratt, and I’m stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota,” he says, introducing himself to the crowd. “I competed in and won the Air Force Worldwide Talent Competition. Being a musician and in the Air Force has been a humbling experience for me, to say the least. I find myself having trouble expressing myself outside of my dorm room, so I’m hoping by performing I’m able to help other Airmen express themselves as well.”
Pratt, a heavy equipment operator assigned to the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron, competed in the annual Air Force Entertainer of the Year competition. Little did he know he would win.
“I’ve always had a love for music, even from a young age,” he said. “I started taking piano lessons from the age of 11, and after a while I just moved on to guitar. I kind of just had this vision in my head of being a rock star, just like every other kid.”
Pratt explained the Entertainer of the Year is an annual Air Force-wide talent competition where performers of all categories come together to showcase their talents. To apply, he simply had to record a video, using his cell phone, of himself performing his music and send it in to Air Force Entertainment.
“A lesson that I’ve learned along the way is that music is not a goal,” Pratt said. “If you come at music with the intention of becoming a rock star, like I did, you’re going to be disappointed. There are going to be so many trials and areas in life where you’re going to think ‘this isn’t for me,’ but if you just keep trying and you have this dedication towards music, someone is going to recognize you, whether you think your stuff is good or not.”
As professionals in the Air Force, every Airman has a specialty – whether it’s security, electronics or civil engineering.
“Even amongst all of our talent, there are a few stand-outs like [Senior Airman] Pratt,” said Col. Gentry Boswell, the commander of the 28th Bomb Wing. “Just like it takes courage to do our mission, it takes a lot of courage to get up in front of everybody and perform.”
Pratt plans on continuing his musical career and hopes to have a positive impact on those around him.
“One thing I would say to those musicians out there that are looking for recognition is to always be hungry,” Pratt noted. “The moment you want to stop, and the moment you think you’ve reached the top, that’s only the beginning.”