View Full Version : Johnstown native to entertain troops in Afghanistan

03-06-06, 08:25 AM
Johnstown native to entertain troops in Afghanistan
Advocate Reporter

NEWARK -- Singer Gina Notrica, 42, a 1981 graduate of Johnstown-Monroe High School, is preparing to enter a battle zone for the third time.

Instead of toting a gun and body armor, however, she'll be equipped with a microphone. Notrica, who now lives in Southern California, will leave on March 30 for the Balkans and Afghanistan, along with her bandmates in Gina and the Bootleggers, to entertain the troops. She's done this sort of "tour of duty" before, in both the Balkans and Iraq.

While her parents, Alice and George Neibarger, of Johnstown, will worry for her safety, they are proud of her accomplishments and dedication to the troops.

"I do worry," Alice said. "It's dangerous and everything. But we feel this is a divine calling and we don't have the right to say no. The boys just love her. We are real proud of her."

Notrica's dedication perhaps comes from her father, who was stationed in Korea in 1953, only seven miles from the front lines. When Alice had complications after childbirth, George was notified to come home. The military didn't pay for such a trip at that time, so his unit members pooled their money to send him home.

Alice, who received 17 pints of blood while floating in and out of consciousness, eventually recovered. But George's unit, all 20 men, were killed three days later, when they were overrun by North Koreans.

Notrica was so moved by her father's story that she wrote a song about it, "A Time to Go." She said the song typically conjures up plenty of emotion when she plays it.

"Just before one show, four female Marines were killed in an ambush," Notrica said, in an interview from her home in California. "I hardly made it through the song when I saw tears rolling down the eyes of grown soldiers."

After trying to schedule a performance for the troops for more than a year, a production company that works with military events finally booked her for a show. It's particularly special for her bandmates, since all of them have some sort of military experience.

"The trip to Iraq was one of the most grueling and hardest things I've ever done," Notrica said. "One day it was 140 degrees. But it was also the most rewarding experience. I never felt so appreciated. I've played a lot of bars and at sterile corporate events, but the troops really welcome you with open arms."

Notrica started singing at a young age, winning two beauty scholarships. She also participated in Miss Southeastern Ohio and Miss Southwestern Ohio and twice in the Miss Ohio pageant. After high school graduation, at age 17, she was one of only 15 girls selected to attend the University of Southern California on a full scholarship to study drama. She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree, with a minor in music.

Upon graduation, Notrica tried to pursue a career in musical theater, but married and had two daughters first. When she found time to return to her aspirations, she went the country music route. Gina and the Bootleggers have been together 10 years, playing gigs at various locations throughout California as well as Nevada and in Nashville.

Notrica has also appeared in a movie role as a TV newscaster, many industrial films, and on numerous TV spots including "The Days of Our Lives" and various commercials.

"In the business I'm in, there is a lot of rejection," Notrica said. "But playing for the troops, I feel real appreciated and honored. It's a validation of my talents."

Originally published March 6, 2006