Tampa Bay choir singer shines on America's Got Talent - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa Bay choir singer shines on America's Got Talent

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LARGO, FL (WFLA) -

A Tampa Bay native is part of a military spouse's choir that's capturing the hearts of millions across the country on NBC's America's Got Talent.

Rachael Smith, who grew up in Pinellas County, was the lead soloist for the American Military Spouses Choir's rendition of "Hero" last Tuesday. America apparently loved them because voters put the group through to the semifinals.

"I tried not to think about the fact that it was live," Smith said in an interview with News Channel 8 from her home outside of Washington, D.C. "I've sang in front of big crowds before and so I just thought about the people that were there and looked at them and tried not to think about the 10 million people watching on TV."

Smith's journey to Radio City Music Hall started a long time ago when she tried out for a middle school singing group called True Vibe. She was Rachael Thomsen then as she went to Keswick Christian School and then Seminole High School.

While she was in Orlando going to college she lost her father to cancer and moved back home.

She's performed at Rays games, in front of her large extended family at First Baptist Indian Rocks church, and for six years at the Tampa Bay's Turkey Trot. That's where Earnest Smith, a graduate of West Point who she had known for years, proposed to her in front of a crowd of hundreds.

"She'd come home from school in sixth grade and say 'this guy stares at me all day long and I don't know why,'" said her mom Virginia Thomsen as she smiled. "{Her dad and I} said 'someday you're going to marry that guy.' She'd say 'oh no!'"

It turned out, Rachael's parents were right. That boy was Earnest. The two married and had a little girl. During that time, Smith did two tours overseas, including a deployment in Iraq right after the wedding and another after their first daughter was born.

Now, he has been staying home as Rachael has taken the biggest stage yet, dedicating performances to the thousands of military spouses across the country.

"We're singing to give other military spouses, men and women, a voice," Rachael Smith said.

The couple's second baby girl is due a week from Tuesday, but Rachael hopes to join the choir again if they make it to the finals.

"The baby - by the time the finals will roll around - will only be 3 weeks old," she said. "That would definitely take some adjustment. I'll have to wait until she's here and see how it goes. It's been four years since I've had a new born."

Even so, the experience has already been an emotional one for those watching her here at home.

"It's just amazing to think that your baby girl is in Radio City Music Hall," Virginia said. "For me - I just sat and cried through the whole thing."

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