FALLS CHURCH, VA-- No two members of the performing group “Colors of Freedom” are alike. The six-member group presents a unique blend of service members’ voices, including those of active duty, reserves, National Guard and veterans.
The group is also mixed-gender and multiethnic, representing female, male, Black, white and Asian American Pacific Islanders. Formed on short notice by former U.S. Army Soldier Show director Victor Hurtado, the group rehearsed once before coming together to film a video audition for “America’s Got Talent,” Jan. 20, 2021.
Hurtado, a disabled U.S. Army veteran and Department of the Army civilian employee, says the idea for the group came about as he was listening to a song he co-wrote with Pamela Sheyne, the British songwriter whose song “Genie in a Bottle,” was Christina Aguilera’s first single. Hurtado and Sheyne’s song is titled “More Than a Witness,” and describes experiencing history and civil rights changes as an active participant rather than simply witnessing it.
“I was listening to the song and I thought, ‘This song is about more than one person. It should be done by a group of like-minded human beings,’” Hurtado said.
To start the ball rolling, he contacted U.S. Army 1st. Lt. Quentin Dorn, a member of the Arizona National Guard who currently works as a military funeral honors coordinator for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, VA.
“We started with people we have worked with in the past,” Dorn said. “Because of our previous experience working with the Soldier Show, we had a lot of alumni in the immediate vicinity performing music for the Army, so we started there. We then reached out to members of other branches of service that we either knew or had worked with in the past.”
In addition to Dorn and Hurtado , the group’s members comprise other prominent military vocalists: U.S. Navy Musician 1st Class Danlie Cuenca; U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kyra Dorn, U.S. Army Field Band (and Quentin Dorn’s spouse); U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erik Tue, U.S. Army Band; and U.S. Army Sgt. Vicki Golding, 257th Army Band, District of Columbia National Guard.
Cuenca recently reached a national audience with an emotional audition for Pharrell Williams on Netflix’s “Voices of Fire.” Kyra Dorn and Tue regularly perform for high-profile military and governmental occasions as well as regular general public and YouTube audiences. Golding, in addition to performing in the same types of high-profile shows, was the winner of the 2006 Military Idol competition.
“Everyone is currently active either in military service or civilian service to the military,” Quentin Dorn said. “Even the National Guard members are activated currently, so it was difficult to find times [to rehearse] that everyone was available. However I think it is a testament to the talent of the individuals in the group that we could pull [the audition video] together to the level that we did with only one rehearsal.”
While first formed with the idea of performing Hurtado’s original song, the group decided instead to cover R&B/pop group En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” for its “America’s Got Talent” audition. Golding arranged the song, writing new vocal parts and harmonies as well as singing.
“Victor told me what the song was, and I found the version that was used at the  Barcelona Olympics, which has different lyrics. Because I had written a lot of vocal parts for the Military Spouses Choir, it just made sense for me to write the new parts,” Golding said. “Working with Victor is always a dream, and working with all the other people in the group is awesome. We just clicked, and, from pretty early on in the process, so it’s been kind of an amazing confluence.”
The name Colors of Freedom means different things to different people in the group by design, explained Hurtado. “The [National] Colors, of course, are sacred to the country and to service members because we are challenged with the defense of what those colors mean,” said Hurtado. “But then there’s the different colors of all of us. Obviously, we are multiethnic. It can mean what it needs to mean to whomever experiences us.”
However, Hurtado said the group did not come about with the intent of solely showcasing demographic diversity.
“It’s not just about showing unity but about being so diverse in our spirits as well, so that hopefully a good deal of people are going to find a place to land emotionally, spiritually—however you connect. My entire life, I’ve witnessed the erasure of lines between people. I think as artists, we’re all looking for a home, and this feels like home,” said Hurtado.
“Service comes in all kinds of forms, and being part of the military doesn’t make you a tin soldier,” Golding said, “Yes, you might be part of a large organization that tries to make everything uniform, but all military people are individuals. And no matter how different and individual we are, we can still blend.”
Quentin Dorn views the group as a vocal form of military leadership the U.S. looks to in times of struggle.
“In many situations the civilian population looks to the military to lead,” said Quentin Dorn. “With the division that currently exists within the nation I believe it is powerful to have military members from all different backgrounds coming together to show unity. Music is one of the most powerful mediums for communication in existence. We are looking to harness that power to fight for our country, no differently than we do in our chosen professions.”