OP’s Quintello aims high as lead singer for Max Impact

Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 4/24/19

Nalani Quintello always had a passion for music. But when she was younger, she thought she had a future in athletics.

But today, she now tours with the official U.S. Air Force rock band where she …

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OP’s Quintello aims high as lead singer for Max Impact

Posted

Nalani Quintello always had a passion for music. But when she was younger, she thought she had a future in athletics.

But today, she now tours with the official U.S. Air Force rock band where she not only sings at countries around the world, but in front of the president.

Quintello attended Montclair Elementary before attending Lakeside Junior High, where she played volleyball, softball and basketball. One night, after a softball win, she and her teammates went to a now-gone restaurant called Ronnie’s that featured wings, burgers and karaoke. It was there where her future in music began.

“I watched my friends do karaoke and they had a blast on stage,” Quintello said. “I was always the shy girl and was never really outspoken. But this one time, I really wanted to do karaoke. So, I asked my dad if I could sing a song.”

“Are you sure you want to do that?” her dad asked.

Quintello selected Uncle Kracker’s “Follow Me” and surprised her fellow teammates, her father and, most importantly, herself.

After such a warm response to her voice, Quintello fell in love with performing on stage. Years later, Quintello sang the National Anthem at Orange Park High football games, as well as her softball games. Desiring to sing even more, Quintello began to perform at local nursing homes, and those performances that taught her the true power of her voice.

“Singing for those people, I realized the power of music and that I could make a difference,” Quintello said. “The nurses told me that some residents wouldn’t get out of bed except on the days I was there to perform. That meant a lot to me.”

Shortly after graduating from OPHS, Quintello attended St. Johns River State College. Around the same time, she auditioned for Season 14 of American Idol. She made through auditions, Hollywood week, the group round and the solo round. She was one step away from being one of the series mainstays during the regular competition. At the same time, however, Quintello had auditioned for the lead singer position in the official Air Force Band known as Max Impact.

Just as she did in American Idol, Quintello nailed her Max Impact auditions. In either direction – American Idol or Max Impact – she had to sign an exclusive agreement. Fortunately for Quintello, she made the decision she doesn’t regret: she chose Max Impact.

Even as the lead singer of Max Impact, which began as just three musicians in 1943 under a different name, she still is in the military. Before her first performance, Quintello had to endure eight weeks of basic training at San Antonio like everyone else in the Air Force.

After that, though, she practiced with her bandmates, and soon the performances began.

Max Impact is just one of the Air Force’s many bands. They specifically specialize in popular music, but other bands might specialize in classic pieces.

As the lead singer of Max Impact, Quintello not only fronts the band, but serves as the marketing manager and booking agent, too.

“We all wear many hats,” she said.

Having joined Max Impact in 2015, it’s been four years since she made the decision to leave American Idol and Florida. Despite loving Florida, Quintello has made her way to some unforgettable places like Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

Egypt holds a special place in her memories in that during one July 4th celebration at the American Embassy in Cairo, something special happened. When the celebration first began, there was a clear divide between the American military and people native to the area.

“It wasn’t hostile or anything,” Quintello said. “It was just really awkward. Nobody was dancing, and the Americans only talked to Americans and the Egyptians only talked to Egyptians.”

That’ before Max Impact took to the stage. After Quintello’s vocals popped through the speakers, any awkwardness or division between the Americans and the Egyptians saw itself fall to the wayside.

“We used music as a way to break the ice,” Quintello said. “People of differing cultures felt comfortable enough to dance together. Everyone forgot about political issues. They forgot about their stress. They came together, despite their differences, and had a great time.”

According to Quintello, that’s what Max Impact is all about, and Egypt wasn’t the last time the band brought people together. Quintello remembers performing at an international school in the Middle East.

“These children had never seen our military before and we were able to be their first impression,” Quintello said. “We could change their perception. Maybe they saw us as negative, but we are able to take that perception and make it positive, and that’s important. These children are future leaders of the world and our future leaders here will need to work with those leaders there. It’s important that those relationships be possible.”

Quintello just recently performed at the White House Easter egg hunt last Monday in front of President Donald Trump. Now Max Impact is preparing for a gig that sees Quintello return to Florida. She’s performed at Florida events before, such as the Daytona 500 last February, but for the first time, she’ll have the opportunity to perform in front of the person that, in a way, got her to where she is today.

The Suwannee River Jam starts on May 1 and Max Impact will perform among music greats like Trace Adkins, Hank Williams Jr., and the man behind the song that put Quintello on this journey years ago – Uncle Kracker.

“It’s extremely surreal,” Quintello said. “Follow Me is the song that started this for me and now I’m performing on the same stage, on the same lineup, as Uncle Kracker himself. This is it.”

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