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Military Bands Honored with Prestigious Award

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Ani Berberian
  • The United States Air Force Band

On December 2nd, The U.S. Air Force Band was presented the National Medal of Arts in a ceremony at The Pentagon. Colonel Don Schofield, Commander and Conductor of The U. S. Air Force Band, accepted this award on behalf of The U.S. Air Force Band, which was presented by the National Endowment of the Arts. The Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Charles Q. Brown officiated over the ceremony. The prestigious award not only represents current members of The U.S. Air Force Band, but also honors all active duty Air Force and Air National Guard bandsmen, past and present.

The U.S. Air Force Band, along with our nation’s other military bands, was originally awarded the National Medal of Arts by the President of the United States in a ceremony at the White House in 2019. The National Medal of Arts is a Presidential award, and is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government. Furthermore, the medal is awarded to individuals or groups who, according to the National Endowment of the Arts, “are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and the availability of the arts in the United States.” Previous recipients include Morgan Freeman, Ron Howard, John Williams, Stephen King, and Ray Charles.

The musicians of the United States military have a long-standing history of selflessly serving our nation with technical expertise, pride and enthusiasm. These qualities were also addressed in the medal citation, which states, “For personifying excellence in music and service to country. From concert halls to war zones, these extraordinary patriots have inspired and uplifted their fellow Americans over generations with their incredible courage and breathtaking musical talent.”

Mary Anne Carter, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, shares a similar sentiment of the 2019 recipients. She states, “The talent, dedication, and creativity of these recipients have made an enduring mark on the arts in America. They now join a remarkable group of others honored over the past decades. The National Endowment of the Arts congratulates them on this honor.”

As one of the nation’s premiere military bands, The U.S. Air Force Band performs over 1,600 missions annually in support of community relations, educational outreach, troop morale, military and ceremonial functions, and funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.

When it was announced that all military band members past and present would be the recipient of The National Medal of Arts, The Air Force Band responded with elation and humility. Col. Schofield explains, “What an incredible honor it is for Air Force bands to be recognized by the President of the United States, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Secretary of the Air Force, and Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Our different ceremonial, senior leader support, and public engagement missions all use music to help brand the excellence of the United States and the Air Force to audiences worldwide. This award recognizes the world-class artistry with which Air Force band members have performed their duties for almost 80 years.”

For Col. Schofield and The U.S. Air Force Band, this award holds a deeper and profound meaning for the organization, and recognizes decades of altruism and excellence. Col. Schofield explains, “I was proud to accept this honor, and represent all current and former active duty and Air National Guard Air Force band members who have served worldwide since 1941. We perform with a sense of virtue, knowing that our talents and passion allow us to use music to honor and thank those who serve our nation, to inspire audiences to a heightened sense of patriotism and service, and to connect with audiences by humanizing the military image worldwide. I appreciate that our senior leaders helped recognize the cumulative impact, influence, and legacy of our Air Force bands.”

At The Pentagon ceremony, Col. Schofield further reflected on the award, stating “Music provides a unique platform to share a country’s history, culture, values, and people, enabling the United States, its allies, and new partners to gain a deeper understanding and respect for each other. Air Force bands have leveraged the impact of music to effect change through attraction rather than coercion. This unique soft power capability uses culture, values, and respect to project national influence to strategic audiences.”

The National Medal of Arts medal and citation will be displayed in Hangar II, home of The U.S. Air Force Band, on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.