Washington, D.C. --
At this point in the year, the U.S. Air Force Band is in the midst of its Summer Concert Series, which runs through August 28th. During these summer months, the band operates almost exclusively outdoors in the National Capital Region, performing concerts at the Air Force Memorial, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, and the Main Stage at National Harbor, all while continuing our most important mission of honoring the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery.
Presenting so many outdoor concerts requires a great deal of preparation and planning. From managing the summer heat to musical programming and supporting the ceremonial mission at Arlington National Cemetery, our musicians and support staff are constantly adjusting schedules and working to keep things rolling.
Senior Master Sgt. Brett Miller, Principal Horn in the Concert Band, describes how the Concert Band and Airmen of Note help to supplement the Ceremonial Brass mission throughout the summer.
"During my two years as operations director with the Ceremonial Brass, I saw firsthand how vital support from the Concert Band and Airmen of Note could be during the summer season,” said Miller. “The mission at Arlington never ceases, so the Ceremonial Brass is unable to ‘shut down’ for members to be afforded summer vacations. Our system ensures we have the adequate number of personnel for the ceremonial mission during the summer months.”
Using Concert Band and Airmen of Note members has the added benefit of keeping the daily and weekly mission totals for each Ceremonial Brass member to safe and healthy levels. This factor is pivotal with the heat stress conditions that occur.
“Now, in my role as operations director for the Concert Band, I coordinate with my counterpart in the Ceremonial Brass and the principals/section leaders of the Concert Band to ensure that each family receives the honors they are entitled, and that most members of the Concert Band have the opportunity to equally participate in these dignified ceremonies,” explains Miller. "Each time we perform on a Full Honors Funeral, we understand that this particular ceremony is uniquely important to this specific family, and therefore perform with our utmost abilities."
The nation’s capital can be incredibly hot and humid during the summer months. Master Sgt. Grant Langford, a saxophonist in the Airmen of Note, breaks down the necessity of combating the heat to perform public concerts.
“Playing in the summer months can be grueling from a heat perspective,” said Langford. “It requires more preparation to make sure that we are physically ready to perform and also that our instruments can withstand the elements. Master Sgt Ben Patterson, our music director, does a great job of pacing the concert so that more physically strenuous pieces are not back-to-back on the concerts. It sounds simple but the key is hydration!"
This season, Max Impact, the Airmen of Note, and the Concert Band and Singing Sergeants are alternating concert blocks, giving our audiences an opportunity to hear a variety of musical styles. While most of our ensembles will be staying local, Max Impact will be doing some touring. Drummer Technical Sgt. Gabe Staznik describes Max Impact’s performance tempo.
"The summer concert series is an exciting time for Max Impact,” shared Staznik. “Our concerts include high-energy music that audiences across the country will enjoy!”
“Max Impact segues into this year's summer series after performing air shows in both Miami, Florida, and Mountain Home, Idaho, as well as concerts in Bethany and Rehoboth Beaches, Delaware. I am looking forward to performing for our local community, family and friends at beautiful venues after much time on the road," said Staznik.
The Singing Sergeants' schedule also includes performances at the beaches where they will entertain audiences with a vast array of musical styles and genres.
“We're constantly rehearsing new music in a wide variety of genres,” said soprano vocalist Technical Sgt. Jilian McGreen. “In June 2018 alone, the Singing Sergeants have performed opera, Broadway, the Beach Boys, Motown, and music from the 1940s era on our Summer Concert Series.”
Another crucial component of the Summer Concert Series is musical programming. As a member of the musical programming committee, Harpist Technical Sgt. Greta Asgeirsson enjoys the task of shaping the theme and style of the music we present.
“We aim to honor the rich musical heritage of our country while simultaneously showcasing the talent of our Airmen musicians," said Asgeirsson. "We strive to find music that will delight audiences of all ages and backgrounds, as well as challenge our players with diverse styles and techniques. Many of our selections highlight our military history and demonstrate the goals of today’s Air Force. Very few musicians in professional ensembles have the opportunity to have as active a role in programming performance repertoire in the way that we do.”
Musicians also serve as announcers for these concerts, drawing in the audience and guiding them through the show. Horn player Senior Master Sgt. Philip Krzywicki explains the crafting that goes into his messages. “I try to make a great first impression upon any new audience members on behalf of the organization. After all, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!” said Krzywicki.
“I confer with the conductor to establish the theme of the program and determine if there is any Air Force messaging to convey," continued Krzywicki. "I then research each piece before putting anything down on paper. After many hours of work and several revisions, I send the script to the conductor for edits. I’ve enjoyed setting the right tone of the composition for the audience, everything from a silly intro for a light-hearted work to the solemnity of the Gettysburg Address.”
Be sure to check of the U.S. Air Force Band’s Summer Concert Series performances on Fridays at the Air Force Memorial at 7:30p.m., Saturdays at the National Harbor at 7 p.m., and Tuesdays at the U.S. Capitol West Side Steps at 8 p.m.
Please note that all summer concerts are subject to cancellation due to weather. Check our Facebook and Twitter feed for up-to-the-minute concert status, or call 703-829-5483.