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Music is in the air

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Submitted Photo Chief Master Sgt. Stacy Ascione's love of playing the flute brought her to the United States Air Foce.

US Air Force Concert Band and Singing Sergeants to perform

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

On Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. an elite group is having a free concert in Pearson Auditorium at the New Mexico Military Institute, entrance on North Main Street. The concert is part of the U.S. Air Force Band’s tour of the Southwest.

With its present home on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., The U.S. Air Force Band is the Air Force’s premier musical organization. Since its formation in 1941 as the Army Air Forces Band, the excellence demonstrated by the band’s airmen musicians has reflected the excellence carried out 24 hours a day by airmen stationed around the globe. Today, The U.S. Air Force Band consists of six performing groups: Air Force Strings, Airmen of Note, Ceremonial Brass, Concert Band, Max Impact and Singing Sergeants. This premier musical unit continues to honor those who serve, inspire patriotism and military service in fellow citizens and impact the global community positively.

Performing in Roswell are the U.S. Air Force Concert Band together with the Singing Sergeants.

The concert band is the premier symphonic wind ensemble of the United States Air Force. Featuring 53 active duty airmen musicians, the concert band performs throughout the United States via biannual tours, live radio, television and internet broadcasts, as well as at local concerts across metropolitan Washington, D.C.

The Singing Sergeants is the official chorus of the United States Air Force and features 23 active duty airmen musicians. The Singing Sergeants present more than 200 performances annually, performing a wide range of musical styles, from traditional Americana, opera and choral standards to modern Broadway and jazz.

Chief Master Sgt. Stacy Ascione has been part of the band for 21 years. In an email she talked about how she came to be part of the band. “To be perfectly honest, my Air Force career began with a posting for a flute opening when I was in college,” she said. “I was very eager to obtain a professional playing job, and at that point in one’s career, it’s always wise to take every audition one can afford to. I actually had almost zero military affiliation at that point in my life — it was a very foreign concept to me at that time — but I had several colleagues who were joining other military bands and speaking very highly of their experiences. My instructors also were very supportive of the idea as well.

“I thought I would give it a shot to at least start a career in music and it’s been such a positive experience. Though my original aspirations were really just to have a musical career of any kind, my experience in this particular organization, having the opportunity to serve my country and the Air Force doing what I love, has had limitless unforeseen fulfillment.”

This will be the first time for Ascione to visit Roswell and perform here. Asked what she enjoyed the most about being on tour, she said, “I cannot say enough positive things about being able to connect with communities I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to connect with otherwise. We have people from all walks of life come to our concerts and their patriotism is infectious. I especially enjoy talking with people after the concert — often times we’ll get to talk to veterans who love telling us their stories, or young people who frequently will share that they are inspired to serve.

“Sometimes we’re in areas that are closely associated with a military installation where we can help generate support for that particular base. Other times we’re in an area that has virtually no military association, which is also fun because those people have very little contact with military professionals. One way or the other, we want people to leave our concerts feeling energized about their country.”

The performance at Pearson Auditorium will be diverse, according to Ascione, “We make a concerted effort to devise very diverse programs, so if all goes as planned, everyone will leave the concert having heard something that they enjoyed. I personally love all kinds of music — but one of my favorite composers is an Air Force alum, the famous film composer, John Williams. We frequently perform his works. Being a flutist, I’d also be in trouble with my mother if I didn’t also say I love performing John Philip Sousa’s ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever,’” she said.

One of the newest members of the concert band is Technical Sgt. David Gonzalez. Gonzalez knows the Southwest, being a native of Brownsville, Texas and studying at the University of Texas in Austin. Arts are part of his family. “I am the first in my family to pursue music professionally. My older sister was the one that paved the way in the arts. She has been a dancer her whole life and studied dance in college. We are both grateful that my parents are so supportive of the arts. When I was in fifth grade and decided that I wanted to join band, they took me to the music store to pick out my instrument. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy band or even want to participate past middle school so when they had me pick out my instrument the instrument sales associate showed me a saxophone for $2,000, a trumpet for $1,000 and a trombone for $400. I told my parents ‘Let’s go with the trombone. I’ll probably only play it for a couple of years.’ And here I am, 20 years later, still playing.”

Asked when and why he joined the Air Force, Gonzalez said, “While this is my first official tour with the USAF Band, I have been a member of the USAF since 2014. Up until this past summer, I was stationed at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois with the Band of Mid-America. My family and I moved to Washington, D.C. this past summer so that I could begin my new job with the USAF Band — a group of wonderful musicians. I joined the USAF because it’s a great way to serve my country while doing what I love — playing music. I am the first in my family to serve in the USAF.”

Gonzales enjoys meeting and honoring veterans with their performances when touring the U.S. One special moment he said stuck out. “We were traveling to Chicago to help connect with a wounded warrior. The wounded warrior’s family loves music and spoke primarily Spanish. The band went to the hospital where the wounded warrior was and performed a personal concert for him and his family. This was our way of honoring his service and letting him know his sacrifice is appreciated.

This is Gonzales’ first visit to New Mexico and Roswell. “I am very excited to go. Traveling through Roswell will be a new experience for me, and I’m looking forward to meeting the people and getting to know the town,” he said.”

Talking about the upcoming show, Gonzales said, “The audience can expect a fun and exciting show filled with a variety of musical selections. One part of my job that I love is when we have the opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues in the USAF Band who are not in the USAF Concert Band — there are different musical groups that make up the USAF Band and the concert band is only one of them. You’ll hear one of these groups on the concert — The Singing Sergeants. We are playing a piece with them which is a lot of fun. I also love that we usually invite local high school students on stage with us to perform a piece during our concerts. It’s great getting to meet students who are interested in music.”

For more information and the free tickets, visit usafband.eventbrite.com or call 575-624-8442. There are no seats that can be reserved, it’s on a first-come, first-seated base. For more information about the bands, visit usafband.af.mil.