PASADENA, Calif. – The United States Air Force Total Force Band kicked off the Air Force’s 70th Birthday celebrations by playing at several venues in Southern California culminating in an appearance here in the 128th Rose Parade Jan. 2.
The band is comprised of 103 active-duty and Air National Guard Airmen-musicians from around the Air Force with a majority of the members from the USAF Band of the Golden West at Travis Air Force Base, California.
The Air Force uses music as a communication tool to highlight the capabilities, innovation, heritage and the significance of airpower to national security. U.S. Air Force Capt. Rafael Toro-Quinones, USAF BOGW commander and action officer for the trip, shared his excitement about the band’s opportunity to represent the Air Force.
“The BOGW usually belongs to Air Mobility Command and it’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of the total force effort to represent the Air Force on this type of stage,” said Toro-Quinones.
Air Mobility Command is located at Scott AFB, Illinois and its mission is to provide global air mobility at anytime, anywhere in the world.
As part of the week-long celebration, the band performed in or hosted several events including Bandfest, instrument clinics for students at Arcadia high school in Arcadia, California, and a retreat ceremony at Disneyland. These events are designed to increase public awareness and provide an understanding of the bravery, sacrifice and dedication of Airmen.
Assembling musicians from different locations to form one harmonious and synchronized band is challenging.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Willen, United States Air Force Band of Mid-America commander based at Scott AFB marched in his third Rose Parade and views it as any other deployment mission.
“You bring together mission capabilities from all over the Air Force and you forward-deploy them to a location with a mission to execute,” said Willen. “The advanced team from Travis Air Force Base did an excellent job of working out most of the bugs and avoiding the speedbumps.”
An important part of the band’s appearance in Pasadena was supporting USAF recruiting efforts. The band facilitated several music clinics for high school students to highlight what it does and how it fits into the Air Force mission.
“We’re always looking for the next generation because our Airmen aren’t going to be here forever,” said Willen. “Anytime we get a chance to interface with youth and education, especially those on the cusp of college or entering a service, we want to afford them the opportunity to gain the knowledge of what the Air Force is all about.”
The band held several rehearsals at Arcadia High School, just a few miles from Pasadena. As a way to show their appreciation for the hospitality they received, band members provided several music clinics for the musicians of the high school’s band. U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alaina Shaw, a clarinetist with the USAF BOGW, facilitated one of the classes.
“The students are so on top of things and so professional,” said Shaw. “I learn as much from them as they do from me.”
Shaw said school districts across California are struggling to keep music programs afloat because of budgetary reasons, but she’s glad Arcadia High School’s music program is doing well.
“It’s encouraging seeing schools like Arcadia High School thriving; music helps develop discipline and builds team work and Arcadia gets that,” she said.
This is not the first time USAF musicians have participated in the Rose Parade; in fact, several musicians performed in the parade for a second or third time. U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jeffrey Zelinka, a clarinetist from the ANG Band of the West Coast, performed in his fourth Rose Parade.
“This parade is like no other in the world,” said Zelinka. “It’s six miles of screaming and applauding with stadium seating and just a thrill to be on the streets in this parade.”
Although not the first Rose Parade appearance for the USAF BOGW, it is the first time they’ve been asked to perform in Bandfest, which is an event that takes place at Robinson Stadium in Pasadena.
“Participating bands are asked to put on a field show,” said Toro-Quinones. “It’s not only a chance to sound great but it also gives us an opportunity to reach out to the community in a more intimate setting.”
One of the highlights of the BOGW’s Pasadena trip was its performance during the retreat ceremony at Disneyland in Anaheim, California with the USAF Honor Guard based out of Washington, D.C. The multi-unit group thrilled thousands of spectators while serving as a sense of pride for those who performed in it.
“I’m so excited to lead the total force band in a ceremony that not only honors our veterans, but serves as a springboard to the kickoff of the Air Force 70th Birthday celebration,” said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Christina Muncey, USAF Band of the West flight commander and officer-in-charge of the Disneyland retreat ceremony.
The Airmen-musicians can be proud of the way they represented the Air Force and the overwhelming joy they brought to Southern California.
The Rose Parade is seen by more than 50 million people in the U.S. and televised in 210 countries and territories.