OFFUTT AIR FORCE, Neb. --
It’s 7:08 p.m. and the rain, beyond the storefront window of the B Side Theatre, has subsided allowing the setting sun to brighten the dimly-lit confines of the Benson music hall in Omaha, Nebraska.
Airman 1st Class Mario Foreman-Powell, a United States Air Force Heartland of America Band vocalist, sits behind a keyboard - stage left, it’s his turn to shine and win the last remaining spot in the MAHA Music Festival lineup.
The third-generation-military member chose his song "Sometimes" for the Omaha Performing Arts Singer-Songwriter Competition. To win, he would have to beat the remaining nine musicians biding for their chance to share the stage with some of the music industry’s biggest names.
"Sometimes" is a euphonic blend of rhythm and blues, jazz and gospel and would soon garner him the win and the chance to perform in the 10th annual MAHA festival.
“Omaha’s strong singer-songwriter community shined on stage during last week’s showcase,” said Dominic Green, Omaha Performing Arts community engagement manager. “We have enjoyed highlighting local musicians the past several years and look forward to even more opportunities and partnerships like the one with MAHA.”
Foreman-Powell was born into music with numerous musicians in his immediate and extended family. He was formally trained in piano at the age of five, and later, drums.
“I’m the only one in my family that play drums, everyone else played guitar,” said Foreman-Powell. “Music was given to me, everyone sings in my family.”
While stationed at United States Army installation in Berlin, Germany, his mother, Alicia Coleman, toured with the gospel group Glorious.
“My mom was part of a very popular gospel group,” Mario said. “She performed in front of stadiums full of people - thousands of people.”
The confluence of being brought up in a musical and military family helped guide Foreman-Powell toward a career in music.
Upon finishing his degree in music composition and performance from Hastings College, Hastings, Nebraska, he returned home to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to work as the Director of Music at the Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church.
Through a chance encounter with a retired Air Force bandsman, Foreman-Powell discovered that he could have a music career in the Air Force and decided to audition for a vocalist position. After six-hours of auditioning at Scott AFB, Illinois, Foreman-Powell was selected to serve in the AF Band.
Once he completed basic training, Foreman-Powell came to Offutt AFB to begin his career with the Heartland of America Band.
“I noticed that the Heartland Band was a small but tight, genuine family,” Foreman-Powell said. “The personality of the band was extremely unique.”
The HOAB has a lineage of musical accomplishments and recognition beyond their service to the armed forces.
“Prior to Foreman-Powell’s accomplishment, Staff Sgt. Paula Hunt, a former member of the USAF Heartland of America Band, received a golden ticket to Hollywood on the very popular show American Idol,” said Chief Master Sgt. Craig LeDoux, HOAB chief enlisted manager. “Another great demonstration of the technical expertise of our musicians can be found in our very own Offutt Brass ensemble who, last summer, had the opportunity to collaborate with the world renowned Canadian Brass ensemble.”
Though his military career has just begun, he has already joined a long list of Air Force musicians who have had success in the highly-competitive music industry.
“We are incredibly proud of Airman 1st Class Foreman-Powell and his selection as the winner of the Omaha Performing Arts Singer Songwriter contest,” LeDoux said.
Foreman-Powell is scheduled to perform at the MAHA music festival Saturday, August 17.
Click here to see his winning song "Sometimes."