JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. --
This past December was an exciting month for The United States Air Force Band! The Concert Band was invited to perform at the 73rd Annual Midwest Clinic held at the McCormick Place complex in Chicago, Illinois. The Air Force’s premier wind ensemble performed a total of three concerts, which included a concert featuring some of the flight’s unique chamber music groups and two evening headliner concerts on Dec. 18, 2019.
One of the Concert Band members, Senior Master Sgt. J. Blake Arrington, played a substantial role in The USAF Band's appearances at this year’s Midwest Clinic. Not only did he perform on clarinet and contrabass clarinet in the Concert Band, he performed with the Clarinet Quartet on the Chamber Ensemble Concert, he assisted with planning the trip, he helped solve production issues for the concerts, and he offered advice during a conference session.
“I was involved in planning for this conference starting a year ago," explained Sgt. Arrington. "Last December, we met with the Midwest Clinic board to define a vision for the performances. Our commander, Colonel Don Schofield, and I met the board in May during their summer meeting in Chicago to solidify all of the various ways the band would help make this an amazing clinic."
At that meeting in May, they selected the repertoire for each program and determined the flow of the concerts, how the band would integrate our members into clinics and masterclasses as well.
"We also had to determine the length of the programs to fulfill the perimeters set forth by the Midwest Clinic Board," Sgt. Arrington continued. "I was also in charge of securing all lodging, overseeing travel and creating schedules for the ensemble.” .
In addition to performing with the Concert Band, Sgt. Arrington serves as the section chief of music production for The USAF Band. In that capacity, he oversees the operations of the music library staff, the concert programming team, the musical commissions team, the arranging staff, and the band historian.
Sgt. Arrington feels that all of these moving parts are significant. According to him, each of these groups are vital to ensuring that we have the music that we need to effectively communicate with our audiences.
Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Arrington joined the Air Force Band in 2006. He holds Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the University of North Texas, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Catholic University of America, which he received in 2011.
“I love that I’m able to serve my country with my unique skillset. Whether it’s bringing communities together during public concerts, or honoring our fallen at Arlington National Cemetery, it’s truly a blessing to be able to accomplish these things through music,” Sgt. Arrington stated about his assignment with the band.
Arrington also talked about how he has grown professionally and personally by becoming a member of the U.S. Air Force Band.
“Professionally, I’ve learned how to be a professional musician," he explained. "You learn how to focus and the level of concentration that is need at all times to deliver top-notch performances."
On the personal side of things, he said he has really learned how much military families contribute to our mission.
"Military spouses take on all roles when we are gone on trips, and military children have it just as tough, if not tougher because they don’t always understand why daddy isn’t there for a school function or game. It really makes you value the time at home with your family.”
In addition to the planning and the performances at the Midwest Clinic, Sgt. Arrington presented a clinic entitled, “Cultivating a Uniform Clarinet Section Sound.” In his clinic, Sgt. Arrington covered ways to improve your clarinet section sound by seating arrangement, focused listening and proven pedagogical ideas.
Arrington enjoys presenting clinics. He states, “I always enjoy sharing my knowledge with those that are educating the next generation of musicians. I’ll be focusing on techniques for producing a beautiful sound while focusing on listening to help educators create a cohesive clarinet section in their ensembles.”
However, Sgt. Arrington is not all business. He is one of the many Airmen that demonstrate the Whole Airmen Concept. One of his many hobbies is sports. “Baseball takes up the majority of my time outside the squadron. I manage my son’s team at Central Springfield Little League, and am an assistant coach for the Mount Vernon Patriots 9u travel baseball team. When I’m not there, I’m probably with my family at Nationals Park watching the World Series Champions play.”
Approaching his 14th year in the U.S. Air Force Band, Sgt. Arrington is looking forward to his remaining years with the band and beyond.
“Within the band, I want to continue contributing musically in whatever way that I can," he shared. "Eventually, it will be my time to retire and head back to civilian life. I’m looking forward to teaching at a college, or university and performing in whatever ensembles I can. I’m also an instrument repair technician, so I’ll have more time to help musicians by ensuring their instruments are in the best possible condition.”
Sgt. Arrington has made many multi-faceted contributions to the U.S. Air Force Band, and we look forward to see where he will help lead in the coming years.