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See a First on the First

Marine Band’s first female soloist featured in New Dominion Chorale’s Nov. 1 concert.

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Sara Dell’Omo

Sara Dell’Omo, the first and only female soloist in the 211-year history of the United States Marine Band, will be a featured performer in the New Dominion Chorale’s “Classic Broadway” concert Nov. 1 at the Rachel Schlesinger Concert Hall in Alexandria.

As the mezzo-soprano soloist and “concert moderator” (announcer), Dell’Omo sings regularly throughout the metropolitan area and around the nation during the band’s annual concert tour. A resident of Burke, she also entertains the President and First Lady at the White House during the Christmas holidays and has sung for the annual 9/11 memorial service at Arlington Cemetery and the dedication of the Pentagon Memorial.

Dell’Omo’s most remarkable performance was a star turn with President George W. Bush as he sang a comic version of “Green Green Grass of Home” at the annual Gridiron Club dinner last year. After volunteering to perform at the dinner, he sought the services of Dell’Omo and fellow Marine Band soloist Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Bennear to rehearse the song and provide musical backup as the “Busharoos.”

Dell’Omo grew up in the small town of Jacksonville, Texas, where her Italian-born mother insisted she take piano lessons well into her teens.

“I hated practicing piano,” said Dell’Omo. “I wanted to take voice lessons, but my parents wouldn’t let me until I was 16.”

Dell’Omo’s maternal grandfather had been a Baptist minister in Italy, and she found her own calling singing in Baptist churches in Texas.

AFTER HIGH SCHOOL, Dell’Omo earned her bachelor’s degree in vocal performance at the University of North Texas in Denton, near Dallas, under the noted teacher Dr. Cody Garner.

After completing apprentice programs in Amarillo and El Paso, Dell’Omo auditioned for the Army Chorale and was offered a job.

She completed basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C., and was assigned to Fort Myer in 2001. Not long after, the Marine Band toyed with the idea of adding a female soloist to its traditional baritone vocalist. In 2004, the die was cast, and the following year, Dell’Omo won the position.

“In the entire history of the band, there have been only four vocalists, three men and me,” Dell’Omo said.

She hopes to serve a full 20 years as a military musician before retiring, including another 12 years with the Marine Band.

After that, she may pursue a second career as a speech pathologist. “I’m enjoying what I’m doing now. It’s a good place for me,” she said

Meanwhile, Dell’Omo is a mother as well as a singer. She and her husband, Tom, a percussionist with the U.S. Army Band, live in Burke. Their first-born, Leonardo, is now 3. Baby Josephine was born on Aug. 7. “My struggles are the same as every other mom’s. I’m still trying to find the right balance,” Sara Dell’Omo said. “In my case, sleep deprivation definitely affects the voice. As a vocalist, you have to be rested. My kids already seem to have an appreciation for music. Leonardo already knows the term ‘fortissimo’ — definitely his favorite dynamic.”

Sara Dell’Omo is looking forward to singing with the New Dominion Chorale in a toe-tapping homage to the great composers of the Broadway stage concert that includes works by George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and Cole Porter. “I’m thrilled to be working with [artistic director] Tom Beveridge,” she said. “His reputation preceded him. ‘Have you worked with him?’ I’ve been asked by several musical colleagues. He’s put together a show of Broadway tunes, and that is a nice change of pace for me. I grew up singing with choirs and look forward to this collaboration.”

New Dominion Chorale’s “Classic Broadway” concert includes lush arrangements from “Kiss Me Kate,” “Desert Song” and “Showboat.” The program also includes medleys from “Phantom of the Opera” and the music of Gershwin performed by piano artist Tom Pandolfi.

The concert takes place Sunday, Nov. 1, at 4 p.m., at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center on the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College, 3001 N. Beauregard St.

Tickets will be available at the door, online at www.newdominion.org or by phone at 703 442 9404. Tickets are $25; seniors, $20; students and children, $5. Parking is free. For more information, visit www.newdominion.org.