Education: Center for the Creative Arts, was studying forensic science at Chattanooga state when she committed to the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
Vocation: Lead female vocalist, Glenn Miller Orchestra.
Movie: "V For Vendetta"
Book: "A Confederacy of Dunces"
Musical or play: "Next to Normal" and "Blood Brothers."
Performer: Judy Garland.
Song: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" or "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Judy Garland."
Valerie Duke likes big-band music and always has. As one of the singing waiters at the Station House at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the numbers she chose to sing were almost always old-school standards.
When restaurant manager Allan Brooks learned that the Glenn Miller Orchestra would be returning to the Choo Choo for a performance, he arranged for Duke to audition. She thought it might be for a part-time or fill-in role.
She passed the audition and was named lead female vocalist after the previous singer, who had held the position for nearly a quarter century, retired.
Since August, Duke has traveled the country, and Japan, on a bus with the 18 male members of the orchestra, doing shows almost every day.
She usually does two solo pieces and two vocal group tunes with the Moonlight Serenaders during a Glenn Miller performance.
Q: Do you remember your first show with the orchestra?
A: It was in Lake Placid, New York, I think. It was terrifying, but exhilarating. The audience seemed receptive, so that was good.
Q: How many shows do you do?
A: We tour 46-48 weeks out of the year. It's a year-round thing.
Q: Is that shows on the weekends or do you do multiple dates in each city.
A: It's every day. We do one-night performances mostly.
Q: Wow. That's a lot of travel. Have you learned any travel tips?
A: It is a lot of moving around, but you get good at it, especially packing. I tried to do a small suitcase at first, but it took too much time. Now I have a big suitcase and just don't fill it. I definitely have a system. I've had to replace two cell phone chargers, so I check every outlet and part of the room before leaving now.
Q: Have you enjoyed being part of the group? Has it been great or have there been ups and downs.
A: There have been ups and down, but mostly because we are on the road. It is difficult to be on the bus that much. I miss driving. I love to drive. But, it's been much better than I imagined. They are all great people and I have learned so much about life, and music.
Q: You are the only female in the group. What has that been like?
A: It's like having 18 brothers. I have pretty thick skin. It is a whole different culture, though. That is for sure.
Q: Do you feel like you are a better singer today from the experience?
A: I would hope so. We get recordings of shows. The director who I started - he has retired since then - suggested it would help and it has. The guys are really a lot of help.
Q: Are you having fun?
A: YES. Definitely. Going on stage is so thrilling.
Q: Is this something someone does for a couple of years and move on or is a long-term gig?
A: The previous soloist did this for about 25 years I think.
Q: What are your goals or plans for the future?
A: My goals have changed kind of. I'm working on, or in the process of, getting a CD started.
Q: What type of music?
A: Standards. Big band music with a trio. Recording a CD was not something I even thought about before. I also know I might want to try some musical theater.
Q: How do you feel about coming back home and performing?
A: I'm going to be so nervous. It is so much easier to sing in front of 2000 strangers than even three or four people you know, but I'm excited.