US Air Force band here to play rock

United States Air Force Band of the Pacific consists of full-time musicians who try to connect countries through music.
Last Updated : 21 February 2019, 02:11 IST

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As we walked around the air base in the hot sun, getting used to the roar of supersonic jets flying over our heads with increasing frequency, a small crowd in a corner caught our attention. To our surprise, we found a live band performing classic rock numbers.

It was a performance of the United States Air Force Band of the Pacific, that consists of full-time active duty musicians performing in support of military and community objectives.

It serves the Pacific Air Forces’ ceremonial needs, and also to keep the morale of airmen high. It comprises a unit stationed at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, Japan, with a detachment stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Rajitha Menon spoke to lead vocalist Master Sargeant Christin Foley.

Is this your full-time job?

Yes, this is our full-time job in the United States Air Force. We also have administrative jobs assigned to us that support what we do, which is getting music out on the road. We have quite a lot of jobs within the bigger picture ---like personnel, marketing, operations, computers---but basically we are hired to be full-time musicians.

Any particular qualification to be part of this band?

Most people in the Air Force Band have qualifications like a bachelor’s or a master’s degree, maybe even a doctorate, in music. Then there are others who may not have the educational background but have the talent and experience of going out and playing and touring.

It’s a nice mix. We also do an audition. It’s a pretty intense audition. They test all your skills, from theory and ear training to sight reading and playing with different ensembles. We have different ensembles; not just the rock band you see here. We are 26 members and we break down into smaller ensembles. We have a jazz band, a concert band, and a brass quintet. There is big variety. We have seven state-side bands and four overseas. This particular band comes from Yokota Air Base in Japan.

Any specifications for the songs you can play?

We pick songs that are appropriate lyrically. Then we also have to take into consideration our specific instrumentation and whether it fits the songs. And of course, we keep in mind what the people want to hear.

We want to do our best not just to entertain but also connect with people. A lot of stuff we do is partnership building through music.

What are the kind of events that you play at?

In this tour specifically, we are playing all through Aero India and it is exciting because we get to play with the Indian military band. That’s a first for us. Today, I played the American anthem and the Indian anthem. Otherwise, we play at the more ceremonial events.
As far as our mission is concerned, we cover the whole Indo-Pacific region. We do our best to strengthen relations between countries through music.

Thoughts about India?

It initially took us some time to get used to the time difference and recover from the jet lag. Now, we are getting into the swing of it. During our drives around the city, I have seen some beautiful palaces that made me go ‘wow’.

We also tried some Indian cuisine and it was just delicious, especially the ‘curry’ dishes. I think the air show will give us more chances to interact with people. I am really looking forward to meeting people, more than anything else.

Published 20 February 2019, 13:56 IST

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