Our military protects and defends us, but it’s a lesser known fact that they also entertain us. The United States Air Force Concert Band and the Singing Sergeants do just that with a free community performance October 25 at ASU Gammage.
The concert is the last of a two-week tour through Arizona and California, with stops in San Francisco, Disneyland, and finally Tempe.
The performance, led by Col. Larry Lang and titled “Airpower!,” commemorates the glory of flight and features light-hearted numbers like “Those Magnificent Airmen,” a tongue-in-cheek rendition of “Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines,” alongside more serious pieces examining various facets of flight and flying. Two of the numbers are original compositions by U.S. Airmen.
The “Eagle Squadron March” by Kenneth J. Alford — a tribute to American pilots who fought for the British RAF before the United States entered World War II — is also on the program. Twelve specially selected ASU music students join the band for that number, said ASU Professor of Music and Director of Ensemble Studies Jerry Hill. Because the students have to be able to play at the professional level with minimal rehearsal, they are primarily graduate students and upperclassmen, Hill said.
Playing with a military band has become a popular career choice for students, particularly those who want to pursue music. Each service branch has its own ensembles, including bands at the military academies and premier groups like the Air Force Band, which is comprised of six ensembles, including a jazz band, an orchestra, and a rock band.
“These jobs are well known, especially since there are fewer and fewer regional orchestras,” said Hill, who encourages ASU students to audition whenever the military bands have openings. “To make these groups is not easy,” Hill said. “These are some of the finest professional musicians around.”
One of those musicians is Chief Master Sgt. Jan Duga, who graduated from ASU in 1982 with her masters in tuba performance and will be on stage Thursday — the last tour concert of her 30-year career in the Air Force Concert Band. Her career has come full circle and has allowed her to pursue her love of music and country, while traveling across the United States and around the world, she said.
“When I was growing up, all I knew was the Marine band,” said Duga. “When I found out about the other bands, I found there were options to perform as a musician and serve your country. I took it as a one-two punch,” she said. “The competition is just as heavy, just as intense as any major symphony orchestra, and it’s a wonderful career option.”
While most people think of military bands playing primarily patriotic music, they actually play a wide selection of musical styles. “The variety of music runs the gamut and lends to the versatility of what we do as airmen, in over 150 different career fields, throughout the world,” Duga said.
Thursday’s concert, which also includes Broadway numbers by the Singing Sergeants, reflects that variety and ends with a patriotic tribute recognizing current and former servicemen and women.
“The concerts are designed for a large range of musical tastes,” Hill said. “To hear great professional musicians play for free is wonderful. It’s going to be amazing.”
The concert is sponsored by the Herberger Institute of Music, The Ahwatukee Foothills News and the East Valley Tribune.
IF YOU GO
What: United States Air Force Concert Band with the Singing Sergeants
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25.
Where: ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe.
Cost: Free; tickets are available at the ASU Gammage Box Office.
Information: (480) 965-3434 or http://asuevents.asu.edu/ .
Contact writer: (480) 898-5629 or firstname.lastname@example.org