The Red Hot Summer of Music competition from T.G.I.F. ended in August. The competition was a summer-long online contest in search of undiscovered music talent. Ne-Yo — a recording artist, songwriter, record producer, dancer and actor — would act as the final judge of all the submissions and offer a personal recording, coaching session and $1,000 T.G.I.F. gift card to the overall winner.
And an Airman from the 702nd Munitions Support Squadron from Buechel, Germany, was part of the winning team.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Edward Whittle and a fellow music lover collaborated on a cover of the song “The A-Team” by Ed Sheeran. Whittle composed and performed an alternate piano arrangement for the song and Felicia Millikan sang.
They entered the contest a little late, less than a month remaining. However, the video began to climb the voting charts due in large part to self promotion and originality of the arrangement. As the summer drew to a close, the video was in the top three. Felicia and Whittle, along with the two other top contestants, flew to New York for the red-carpet event and the revealing of the grand prize winner.
After winning, Felicia and Whittle had a little more than a month to prepare for the coaching, recording session with Ne-Yo. They both decided to write an original piece and are in Los Angeles right now finishing up the trip.
The Whole Story
Whittle has always had a passion for music, starting as far back as he can remember.
His mother would watch as he often pretended to play the keyboard on the arm of their couch whenever a song would come on the radio. She immediately signed him up for piano lessons, which would later become the foundation for his life’s calling.
His love for music followed him all through high school and into college. At Westminster Choir College, Whittle studied music theory and composition, and music education with a primary in piano. His time at Westminster helped him clearly define the power of music.
After college, Whittle had to decide what he wanted to do, what he wanted to be when he grew up. Using his father as an example, he decided to enlist in the Air Force.
At his technical training school to become a command post apprentice, he heard about a Tops in Blue performance nearby. With permission from his cadre, he went to the show early and participated in an open audition. He hadn’t even reported to his first base yet when he got a call asking him to audition at the Air Force Entertainment worldwide talent search. Long story short, he competed at the talent search and took one of the keyboardist positions of Tops in Blue.
From there, he began a whirlwind of training and rehearsing. Once the 2010 tour season began, Whittle traveled across the world to deliver music entertainment … which was how me met Felicia in Colorado Springs, Colo., after performances for the military bases in that community.
They stayed in contact over the years and shared their music creations. They began to rely on each other for honest feedback and constructive criticism to improve their skills. Felicia eventually asked Whittle to join her in her audition for the Red Hot Summer of Music. It should be a cinch with Whittle’s background in piano and her natural singing talent, she thought. But, as it turns out, it’s difficult to collaborate when one person is in the Midwest and one is in Germany.
What could normally be fixed or corrected in a minute can now take days. They must record themselves playing or singing. Then, they must transfer that digital file somehow, either through email or an online file storage system. Factor in the time difference, and you can start to see the problem.
But the hard work paid off. Both musicians have had their confidence boosted and are now seeking alternative ways to share their passion with others.