LIVE OAK — U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. Nalani Quintello is living the American dream of success in her chosen career as the lead female singer for the U.S. Air Force Max Impact rock/country band.
At just 24, this beautiful and talented Jacksonville area artist performed all across the Southern United States from an early age and played the Suwannee River Jam twice at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. She represented country radio station WQHL 98.1-FM of Live Oak, the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and the state of Florida in the 2013 Texaco Country Showdown Southeastern Regional semifinals in Georgia, made it to the top 48 on American Idol soon afterwards and has sung at the White House, co-written songs, toured the world in her job helping to provide beautiful music while promoting the important image of America in other countries and at home.
This year she and the band will perform May 4 at the 2019 Suwannee River Jam at the Music Park.
Quintello discovered the U.S. Air Force was looking for a female lead singer for Max Impact as she was headed to the Hollywood rounds on American Idol.
“I was set to go to Hollywood and the opportunity came up for the Air Force!” she said. “I sent in my audition materials, traveled to Washington, DC and they wanted to hire me!”
Just as she was moving to the last performances in American Idol after Hollywood, she dropped out of American Idol and became a member of the U.S. Air Force. Quintello chuckles when she talks about the eight weeks of basic training she had to take before starting her job singing across America and the world.
“It was pretty easy as I was fairly athletic and used to training. I think the hardest part for me was trying not to fall asleep during the long days!" she said. “You have to get up at the crack of dawn and work until 10 p.m., and I often got tagged to pull security throughout the night to watch the door, only averaging about three hours of sleep every night! But it was fun!”
“Becoming friends with so many people was probably my favorite part!”
On April 22, Max Impact performed for the second year in a row at the White House in Washington D.C. for President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump and thousands of guests at the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn.
Another big moment in Quintello’s life takes place May 4 at the Suwannee River Jam when Max Impact Band performs during the patriotic event beginning at 4:30 p.m. on the main stage. They take the main stage at 4:45, opening for A Thousand Horses, Gretchen Wilson and country music legend Hank Williams Jr. This will be the band’s first performance at the famed Suwannee River Jam. It will be Quintello’s third time performing there but her first time on the main stage.
The next big day for Quintello this year will be when she graduates from college. She earned most of her first two years upon graduation from Orange Park High School. After joining the Air force, Quintello resumed her studies with Berklee College of Music as a music business major. Quintello looks forward to taking that achievement walk to receive her bachelor’s degree.
Max Impact was invited to the White House on July 4, 2018, where it performed the now very popular song she co-wrote, “American Airman.” This song’s words were inspired by the writers’ experiences serving in the U.S. Air Force. It has become one of the most requested songs, was aired on Hallmark and inspires airmen everywhere. Asked if she met the president that day, Nalani said no.
“I saw him but did not meet him!" she said. "He came out while I was singing “This Flag” and he gave me a thumbs up!”
The band headlined the NFL Giants vs. Patriots show in 2015 where “American Airman” was one of the songs requested.
“There were 65,000 energetic NFL fans at Met Life Stadium,” Quintello said in amazement.
She has also sung the national anthem at Yankee Stadium and for the Philadelphia Phillies. This year Max Impact performed at the NASCAR Daytona 500 in Florida in February.
“Those are some of the most patriotic fans and are so fun to perform for!” she noted of the NASCAR fans.
Recently the band went overseas where they were based out of Qatar for 90 days as they performed at international schools and traveled to Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf.
“We also performed in Kuwait where we got to share the stage with Sinbad! That was a highlight event for me!” Quintello commented.
Growing up she and her sister, who also joined the military, were raised by their mom and their dad, a US Army veteran. When Quintello was about 13, she and her dad were at an event where people could go on the stage and perform.
“I begged my dad to let me sing a song,” she said. “I got up there and sang Uncle Kracker’s song, 'Follow Me!'"
It was her first time on stage and no one knew she could sing until that day!
“That is what started it all!” this now-famous artist says of her singing career beginning. At this year’s Suwannee River Jam, she and Max Impact are going to perform at the same event as Uncle Kracker.
The band plays for many Washington events where foreign dignitaries and other important people are guests.
“Our job is to come in after dinner and lighten the mood and give a 20-minute show,” she said. ”Part of our mission is to strengthen our alignment with our allies, initiate conversations and unite people. Music is an international language, and if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that music has the power to change the world.”
She mentions an event where just such a magic wand was needed where there was tension in the room but once the music began, guests from many different countries loosened up, began to dance with each other and ended the evening on a very happy note.
“I have learned how important our lives as airmen are to bring people together with music,” she added.
Quintello points out how important it is for Max Impact to visit international schools.
“It’s important for students to see a U.S. Military person in uniform and for us to see and talk with them! It might be the first time ever they’ve seen one of us, and it can change their perception down the road because they’re going to be future leaders,” she said. “Our job is to go in and change wrong ideas they might have about the USA!”
As a bi-lingual speaker of English and German, Quintello has that special something that makes people want to listen when she speaks. Not to mention her beauty and spectacular voice and performance ability.
As her career began to grow while she was a teenager, it became the norm for Quintello and her dad to go anywhere any time she could find a stage to perform her music. Her dad once drove Quintello to the Suwannee River Jam one Saturday to perform (about 100 miles from home), returned home for another performance that same day and then drove her back to the Jam for another performance before heading for home late that evening. Dedication was not just a word in the Quintello household, it had real meaning and carries over today in her chosen career to sing and bring esteem to America.
Tickets are still available for this year’s 2019 Suwannee River Jam at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and Campground in Live Oak. For tickets, go to www.suwanneeriverjam.com/tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org, go to the SOSMP’s website at www.musicliveshere.com or call the main office at 386-364-1683. Military and student discounts available.