SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. --
When Staff Sgt. Timothy Sentz enlisted in in the Air Force in 2010 as a client systems technician, he thought he would have to set aside his dream of pursuing a career in music.
However, Sentz not only competed in several Air Force singing competitions, but he also toured the globe as a vocalist for Tops in Blue, a program that assembled musically-gifted Airmen to perform at installations worldwide that ended in 2016.
“When I first joined, I kind of figured that it would be the end of the whole music thing,” Sentz said. “I didn’t realize there would be so many opportunities to explore my talents.”
Sentz was stationed at Scott Air Force Base with the 375th Communications Squadron. There, his leadership encouraged him to enter into AMC Icon, a singing competition put on by Air Mobility Command in an effort to showcase local talent.
“That was the first stepping stone,” he said. “The guy who ran AMC Icon was a former Tops in Blue member, and he was the one who said ‘Hey, you should try out.’”
After making it to the finals of AMC Icon in late 2011, Sentz auditioned for Tops in Blue.
To audition, Sentz submitted an online audition video to the Air Force website. Out of more than 500 contestants, he was one of the 50 who qualified for the live auditions in San Antonio, Texas. From there, about 20 people made the cut.
“They took the best guitar players, best drummers, best vocalist, and pieced them together to make a team.”
While in Tops in Blue, Sentz performed for troops across the globe, touring countries such as Greenland, Japan, Germany, and Afghanistan.
“There wasn’t a day you could slack off because we were performing in deployed areas,” he said. “There was no room for anything less than your best.”
His Tops in Blue tour wrapped up in 2013, and his enlistment ended not long afterwards. However, Sentz continued his service as a guardsman with the 126th Air Refueling Wing.
He would later deploy to Qatar in 2016, and learned of a new opportunity within the Air Force to grow as a musician: the Air Force Entertainer of the Year competition.
“I didn’t know the program existed until I found it online while I was deployed,” said Sentz. “I looked at [the competition] as another channel to get my music out there. I used it as a chance to get better.”
Sentz submitted a video audition when he got back from Qatar that spring, and in December 2017 he found out that he had won the vocal category.
“I was pretty stoked about it. It felt really good to get that feedback,” Sentz said. “Going forward, it lends something to your credibility as an actual artist. It’s an experience I can definitely draw upon moving forward.”
Becoming a guardsman also gave Sentz the freedom to move to Nashville to pursue music.
“It’s just something I’m constantly working on. Whenever I get a chance, I’m working on a song or practicing,” Sentz explained. “It’s all about practice. My mom used to say perfect practice makes perfect.”
Now, he juggles his service and music with his regular job as an information technology technician at a Veterans Affairs hospital.
“I’ve found ways and opportunities to allow music to still remain a very important piece of who I am,” said Sentz. “It’s kind of like living three very different lives. Is balancing tough sometimes? Absolutely. But I love it, and I’m extremely proud to [still] wear the uniform.”