Forty-seven high school music students from Ohio visited Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) recently to glean decades of invaluable music knowledge and guidance under the tutelage of the Air Force Band’s esteemed premier jazz ensemble band, Airmen of Note.
“Our students thoroughly enjoyed visiting and observing the Airmen of Note in action. It was wonderful for our students to see both musicians and military professionals at work. Seeing the ensemble work in rehearsal was particularly interesting, as students were exposed to great music as well as the process and dedication it takes to perform music at a high level,” said Greg Benson, director of bands at Gallia Academy High School in Gallipolis, Ohio.
The students sat in on the morning rehearsal with the Airmen at JBAB last week. They freely sung along to the classic tunes gleefully capturing the memorable event with their smart phones. Some even camped out right on the rehearsal floor waving their illuminated phones back and forth like concertgoers.
Led by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tyler Kuebler, a native of Augora Hills, Calif., the Airmen played stringed instruments, horns, drums, a piano, and sang. They performed pop favorites from Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration” to Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.”
The band stopped between sets to talk about musical instruments, like the saxophone, and the life of a being a musician in the armed forces.
Some in the group were so inspired by the visit that they would consider enlisting into the military to pursue a career in music, Benson explained.
“After our visit with the jazz ensemble, many students approached me saying how much they had been inspired by the visit and would love to pursue a career as a military musician in the future. All around, the visit to the base and with the Air Force ensembles was an incredible and unique experience for our students that capped off our Washington, D.C. trip perfectly,” he said.
The March 26 visit by Gallia lines up with calls by Air Force leaders for the band to have a greater presence in educating students in the community, according to Airmen of Note Noncommissioned Officer in Charge Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Tim Leahey, a native of Altoona, Penn.
“The band last year was given guidance to do more outreach in the educational community and we branded what we call the AIM [Advancing Innovation through Music] program,” he said.
The AIM program links professional Air Force musicians with students from local schools in the area offering personal music instruction and mentorship.
“We go into the schools, and it might just be a few of us going to talk to some elementary school kids or we might bring the whole jazz ensemble to work with another high school jazz ensemble. What we typically do, is we will hear them play, give them a brief overview and then we will split into sectionals so the kids can get a lot of one-on-one attention,” Leahey said.
Air Force Master Sgt. Brian MacDonald, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and trumpeter in the group for the past 15 years, said reaching out to the community is all part of being in the band.
“We have school groups come in sometimes and we do many outreach clinics. We work with many D.C. metro high schools and their bands,” he said.
School visits and other community outreach activities are expected to increase in the coming months as the weather gets warmer urging local organizations to engage in more recreational activities, explained Air Force Master Sgt. Bryce Bunner who escorted the students to the rehearsal facility.
“In the spring time we get a lot of school groups. It is a chance for the local youth to spend the day with the Air Force Band,” he said.
Bunner is head of outreach coordination for the band. He is also a principal violinist for the Air Force Strings.
Gallia students had previously visited the national capital region, and performed at Union Station as well as George Mason University. During their performance at George Mason they had the opportunity to work with Mark Camphouse, an Illinois-based composer whose work involves symphonic wind instruments, Benson said.