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Joint Base Andrews News

NEWS | Feb. 28, 2020

America's Airman: TSgt Christopher Ziemba

By Senior Airman Kaylea Berry


- What's your full name, job title and unit?

TSgt Christopher Ziemba, Premier Band Pianist, The USAF Band (Airmen of Note).

- What's your hometown city and state (and country, if not U.S.)?

I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY.

- Why did you decide to serve in the military?

I decided to serve in the military for several reasons. First, the Air Force provided me with the opportunity to apply my skillsets as a professional musical artist to the most honorable cause of serving my country. Additionally, it enabled me to carry on the legacy of my grandfather, who served during WWII as a Navy postman. He was a big inspiration to me growing up, and his stories about his time stationed in Panama made an impact on me at a young age.

- How do you think your job impacts the wing's mission?

My job impacts the wing's mission in a variety of ways. As the pianist with the Airmen of Note (the jazz ensemble component of The USAF Band), I am uniquely positioned to honor our nation's veterans. We maintain a sizable collection of Maj. Glenn Miller's music from the 1940s, and we perform these songs specifically for our veterans so that they can reminisce about their earlier years, back when the same music represented the sound of freedom across the globe. Another significant aspect of my job enables me to directly support the highest levels of leadership. During such protocol missions, I frequently perform in intimate settings (such as the residence of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force) while top government and military leaders host their foreign counterparts. Additionally, through community relations tours and countless other high-visibility performances year-round, I help tell the Air Force story to a national audience of millions. Most people will never have the chance to interact with the thousands of Airmen who work tirelessly around the world to keep us safe, but they may be able to come to one of our concerts and meet someone like me. While performing, I represent all Airmen’s precision, passion, and excellence. Finally, through deployments, I am able to bring a little taste of home to those serving abroad, providing music as way to say "thank you" and to remind them that their efforts are not forgotten!

- What's been your favorite assignment/TDY and why?

My favorite TDY was in fall 2017, when the Airmen of Note toured the state of California. It was my first TDY, and, after having just arrived from BMT and following a few weeks of intense rehearsal, it was an indescribably cool experience to make such high-caliber music, night after night. It was the first time I was able to see how what we do impacts the communities we visit, inspiring joy, patriotism, and pride in our audience members. All of our national concert tours since have been the same in this respect, but I'll always remember the first one.

- What is your dream assignment and why?

I am already at my dream assignment! The Airmen of Note has a reputation for being one of the finest jazz ensembles in the country, even the world. I've been aware of this group since I started learning how to play jazz in middle school, so to actually be a part of it now is simply surreal. It's the top of the top, and I wouldn't trade it for anything!

- What's the coolest thing you've done in the military?

Perhaps the coolest thing I've done in the military was when I participated in a TDY to Costa Rica, a trip that was co-sponsored by the State Department with the goal of fostering a unique cultural exchange. This tour included not only a string of public concerts across the country, but two Independence Day events hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica. We represented the U.S. and generated goodwill among communities who, in some cases, had never seen an American service member nor heard jazz music before. We even made music with school children at an extracurricular program designed to shelter them from the dangers of the drug trade in their town, and became immersed in Costa Rican traditional music in the process! At our own concerts, we performed an arrangement of a popular Costa Rican song called "Soy Tico," which is an unofficial anthem that everyone knows. I'll never forget the smiles and cheers as the audience began to recognize the piece, and soon the audience was singing along wholeheartedly!

- What hobbies do you have/what do you do in your spare time?

I'm still an artist, so I tend to be focused on my craft a lot! When I'm not preparing for an upcoming performance with The USAF Band, I perform and record professionally on my own, either solo or in other musical formats in and around Washington, D.C. I'm also constantly writing music, listening to and trying to learn from other artists in the field, and practicing. Outside of music, I've gotten deeply into rock climbing, and am a middling tennis enthusiast. I enjoy reading and will admit a love for video games (specifically Nintendo Switch and Xbox One).