Deputy April Bain's voice echoed off the buildings in downtown Dade City. Softly she sang in honor of fallen law enforcement officers, and goosebumps dotted even the hairiest of arms.
She sat alone in full uniform with her guitar. In the shadows. An honor guard deputy stood tall in front of her, blocking the audience's view, and for that Deputy Bain was grateful.
"I'm kind of shy,'' she said later.
Inmates at the county jail might find that hard to believe, as she barks orders and keeps them in line. But when it comes time to sing in front of people, the butterflies flutter. This is where she finds courage: "I just say, God, this is for you. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.''
This singing in public thing began in, of all places, the shower at the police academy.
Five years ago, she cleaned houses and office buildings to support her three young children. She didn't like it. As a girl growing up in Palm Harbor, she had always wanted to serve in the military, but she didn't want to leave her mother, who raised April alone.
Now came this opportunity to become a deputy, and she took it.
At the academy, "they beat us into shape,'' she said. Run, run, run. Sweat. Run again. Then hit the showers. April and another woman, who would later become a Tarpon Springs cop, harmonized. They were good, and people noticed. Next thing she knew, a supervisor wanted her to sing the national anthem at graduation. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement officer heard her and asked if she might sing at the annual fallen officer memorial ceremony in Tallahassee. She's been invited back three times.
After Pasco sheriff's Lt. Charles "Bo'' Harrison was murdered in 2003, April sang Amazing Grace at a ceremony in his honor. Everyone was crying, including this singing deputy, but somehow she got through it. Two weeks ago, she returned to Dade City for the annual memorial to fallen Pasco officers. She sang Breathe by Marie Barnett, adding a verse to express love and respect to one special member of the sheriff's honor guard — her husband.
Lt. Rick Bain is a 14-year veteran of the Pasco Sheriff's Office. He's a serious man with razor-sharp creases and robotic precision during honor guard duty. He spent six years in the Navy, working aboard the U.S.S. America aircraft carrier. As a reservist, he has served four times in the Persian Gulf combat zones, returning home most recently last June. He doesn't share much information about that.
In 2005, Rick served on the honor guard at the Tallahassee ceremony where April sang. She noticed him. They shared a passion for exercise and often worked out at the sheriff's gym and ran together. "One day I said, 'Sarge, you want to get a drink?' " she recalled, noting that this was before his promotion. Their next dates, she said, consisted of kayaking, canoeing, running, and they got married last December.
April developed her singing voice through opera competition while at Tarpon Springs High School (Class of 1994). Some people in that town will remember her as April Burnside, who was also a varsity cheerleader. She attended Florida Southern College in Lakeland and played rock Christian music with her former husband. She has written a dozen songs and hopes to record some of them. Most of her singing opportunities these days are at the Christ Fellowship Church in New Port Richey, where she is on the worship team.
"Music is my life," she said, "my purpose."
But come Monday, it's off to jail. Weapons and radios replace guitars.
There are bills to be paid.