Salem man in America's Got Talent quarterfinals with Air Force a capella group

2nd Lt. Ryan Douglas, a native of Salem, and his all-male a capella group have made it to the quarterfinals of NBC's America's Got Talent.

The group, In The Stairwell, advanced from the previous round with a unanimous decision from all five judges following a performance of NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye." That performance was recorded about three months ago. The quarterfinal performance on Aug. 15 will be the first on live TV. This time, viewers at home decide who advances.

Douglas, a 22-year-old baritone, is "slightly" nervous, but excited.

"Anything on live television is something not a lot of people get to do," he said.

How to watch

Channel: NBC (KGW)

When: 8 p.m., Aug. 15

How to vote: Voting opens at 5 p.m., Aug. 15, and closes at 4 a.m., Aug. 16. A code will be provided for viewers to vote via phone after the performance.

In The Stairwell was formed in 2004 by a group of freshmen cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The group, currently 16 in all, but with 15 performing in the quarterfinals, is named after the location members first gathered to practice -- in the stairwells of the academy dormitories.

Although it's his first run on live TV, Douglas has been singing since fifth grade. He continued through high school in the concert choir at West Salem High, where he was also on the lacrosse and swim teams. During his junior year, when he decided he wanted to move to Colorado to enter the academy after high school and he thought he should quit choir to focus on preparing. He credits choir teacher Jesse Angelo for convincing him he could do both.

"He told me I was being dumb and I shouldn't do that. I'm glad he set me straight," said Douglas.

His senior year, the concert choir won state competition in the 6A division.

"That was really fun. I felt like that was a peak as far as choir is concerned," he said.

Performing live on national TV might be the next step up, however.

Douglas joined In The Stairwell during his first year at the academy in 2013, after a friend in the group, Ben Hightower, convinced him to try out.

"I love singing and spending time with these other guys who love singing as much as I do," he said. "It's just a very human thing, sometimes a very spiritual thing, singing with people."

In The Stairwell performed mainly at official academy events when he first joined, but two years ago began to compete. It was a video of the group's performance at the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella in 2016 that caught the eye of producers at America's Got Talent. They were invited to Los Angeles for an audition.

There's a $1 million prize on the line for the competition's winner, but Douglas is more concerned with the message they send along the way.

"Representing something bigger than myself, that's the whole reason I'm in the military," he said. "I love seeing people's reactions to it ... Americans get to see who we are and what we're capable of."

Douglas graduated in May, earning a Bachelor's of Science in aeronautical engineering with a minor in French. He'll be starting pilot training at the Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi in September, so this is his last run with In The Stairwell.

"This would probably be it," he said. "I'm really happy I can do this now."

As for what they'll be performing in the quarterfinals, Douglas won't say. But confidence in his group seems to be overriding the nerves.

"It's a secret, but I can tell you it's gonna be great," he said.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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