Band Brings Broadway to Midwest: Let's Take the Show on the Road
By Airman 1st Class Joshua R. M. Dewberry , 11th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 02, 2014
JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. --
The U. S. Air Force Band's Concert Band and Singing Sergeants completed a 12-day Spring tour across the Midwest, covering Illinois, Indiana and Michigan from April 3-14. The performances were free and took place at high school and college venues.
This was the Band's first tour in 16 months, a dramatic change from the pre-sequester days when they would tour semi-annually.
"We were literally sequestered in the National Capital Region, but we made the most out of our situation and heavily focused on developing our educational and community relations programs," said Col. Larry Lang, The U.S. Air Force Band commander and conductor.
By going on the road, the Band is able to accomplish multiple goals in their overall mission.
"We have several critical missions," said Lang. "The first is ceremonial and congressionally-mandated. We must provide final honors for our fallen warriors at Arlington National Cemetery so we hold that mission very dearly and take it seriously."
The Band performs hundreds of funerals annually, but another critical component of their mission is public outreach.
"The Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff all understand this important mission to connect with the American public," said Lang. "Many Americans never see a military member in person, so we need to be seen, shake hands and play something enjoyable and patriotic."
As the commander, Lang realized the great opportunity this tour presented to share key Air Force messages.
"We put in some messages about how important the Air Force is, coupled with music the audience enjoys, and they walk away feeling really good about what we're doing and our service," he said.
Lang went on to further express his understanding of the importance of honoring military culture.
"It is important we have the support of the population, said Lang. "We always want America's support for our mission, and how else are they going to learn about us unless someone is out there telling the Air Force story?"
Lang is not the only one who shares this sentiment. Senior Master Sgt. Dennis Hoffmann, Singing Sergeants percussionist and superintendent of production, also expressed the importance of connecting with the general public.
"When we meet with people, we talk about all of the Air Force, not just music," said Hoffmann. "Recruiting is another mission of ours. Even though we're downsizing, we always need new Airmen, and music is a powerful way to connect with people."
The Singing Sergeants connected with audiences by singing songs from Broadway shows such as "The Lion King," "Mary Poppins" and "Wicked."
To close the show, with audiences as large as 1,500 people, the Band took the time to recognize and honor the veterans from each branch of military service who were in the audience by asking them to stand and be recognized.
"I was excited to see the level of patriotism of audiences," said Hoffmann.
After each show, audience members were invited to come to the stage and interact with the band. Many requested pictures with service members, asked questions and thanked band members for their performance.
"Every Airman is a professional of the highest caliber," said Lang. "We're proud to represent them because we think every career field is important. We want to tell everyone's story."