LOS ANGELES – The Soldier strides to the podium at the front of the crowd. Although she can’t be more than a few inches over 5 feet, there is a palpable sense of power and confidence radiating from her.
As the background music for the national anthem begins to play, the petite vocalist barely needs the microphone as her strong, pitch-perfect voice fills the air, bringing tears to a World War II veteran’s eyes.
With the last note sung, U.S. Army Spc. Raivyn C’Imone Hearne flashes the crowd a pageant-worthy smile and purposefully walks back to take her place with fellow Soldiers. A small smile remains on her face as she watches the rest of a celebration for the veteran’s 105th birthday.
“Music has been my passion for as long as I can remember,” says Hearne.
Hearne, a vocalist with the California Army National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division Band, has loved music since she was a little girl growing up in Texas with her mother and six siblings. Surrounded by musicians on her father’s side, her early home life was filled with an appreciation for performing and singing.
The Houston native remembers her first experience singing in front of other people at her family’s church as a 4-year-old. Hearne performed “I am God” by Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers.
“Having that foundation of music always in and around my home gave me an intense connection with and exemplified my love for poetry in the form of song,” she said.
After graduating from Lamar High School, Hearne joined the Texas National Guard as a vocalist in search of adventure while building a foundation to share and pursue her passion for singing.
Hearne’s first shot at performing in uniform came a few months later during her advanced individual training graduation in Fort Lee, Virginia.
“It was a proud moment for me, having graduated at the top of my class,” she said.
Hearne remembers her command and other officers on base approaching her after the graduation and encouraging her to develop her natural talent outside of the military as well, advice she soon took to heart when she returned to Texas.
While serving in the Texas National Guard, she continued her studies by enrolling in Houston Community College. She received an associate degree in fine arts in May 2016.
The following month, while on annual training with her Guard unit, Hearne had a conversation with a battle buddy about her goals that would shape her future.
“I didn’t have a plan at the time, but I figured I’d just transfer into a local four-year university in Houston. I then made a comment saying, ‘You know, if I could go to any university in the world, it would be the University of Southern California (USC), but I’m not good enough to even apply for that school.’”
That comment kickstarted the next phase of Hearne’s journey. While she had dreamed of being a student at USC since she was a little girl, she never thought she’d be able to achieve it.
Fellow Soldiers were shocked at the normally confident vocalist’s uncertainty about her talents.
“They then encouraged me to make a call to the USC Thornton School of Music in that moment, and the rest is history,” she said.
Hearne was accepted and is studying popular music performance, focusing on voice. She is also learning to play the piano.
“I’m taking private lessons with one of my favorite music artists of all time, the legendary Dr. Patrice Rushen. I’m learning so much from her. She is truly one of a kind … such a beautiful and brilliant human being. I have so much love and respect for her,” said Hearne, who uses the stage name Re’ h in her civilian life.
While earning her bachelor’s degree, Hearne moved to Los Angeles and transferred into the California National Guard. She continues to perform the national anthem at small military ceremonies and occasional sporting events like Military Appreciate Night at an Anaheim Ducks hockey game in November.
Now studying at USC and in her second year with the California National Guard, she is setting her goals in the military and in her civilian career, with dreams of working as a recording artist and voice-over actress in animated films and television.
“I love working with kids and young people, and I have a soft spot in my heart for the youth. I want to be a part of creating meaningful art and entertainment to help uplift the youth and bring positivity to the world,” she said.
While Hearne is a professionally trained vocalist who has performed countless times, singing the Star-Spangled Banner still gives her pause.
Her largest event to date was singing the national anthem at her command’s deployment ceremony in 2015 at the Houston Astros baseball game at Minute Maid Park.
“There had to have been at least 40,000 people in attendance. I was so nervous to sing in front of such a large audience,” she said.
Hearne, who knows what the sacrifice of service means, said she was overcome with emotion while singing.
“The most challenging part for me was having to sing while feeling the emotional heaviness of my battle buddies in that moment, on top of trying to calm my nervous emotions,” she said “However, in that moment I felt a responsibility to lift the energy of every person under the sound of my voice, so I sung from my heart ... and from a place of power and pride.”