ORLANDO – Anyone who thinks the members of the Armed Forces are not uniquely multi-talented are likely to be proven wrong this weekend, when Greater Orlando gets an opportunity to discover how diversified their skills are, when the United States Air Force Band comes to Central Florida for a concert series over four days.
The United States Air Force Ceremonial Brass announced on Jan. 4 that it would embark on a historic milestone, their first ever statewide Community Relations tour.
As part of that, the band will give free performances in cities across Central Florida, including Orlando, Altamonte Springs, Winter Garden and Kissimmee.
“Visiting ten cities in Central Florida, this tour gives the public the unprecedented opportunity to see one of the nation’s premier ceremonial ensembles up close and personal,” noted Senior Master Sgt. Joe Jackson of the USAF Band, in a news release announcing the concerts.
The first one will be on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 2 p.m. at Faith Hall at the First Academy, 2667 Bruton Boulevard in Orlando. That will be followed on Monday, Jan. 16, with a concert starting at 7:30 p.m. in the Lake Brantley High School auditorium at 991 Sand Lake Road in Altamonte Springs.
Monday is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
On Tuesday, the concert series continues with a performance at 7 p.m. at West Orange High School’s auditorium. The Winter Garden school is at 1625 S. Beulah Road.
The final show will be on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. at the Osceola Performing Arts Center, 3141 N. Orange Blossom Trail, in Kissimmee.
Tickets are required in advance, but there’s no charge to get one. Anyone can order free tickets online by visiting www.usfband.af.mil/events.
“The theme of the tour,” Jackson noted, will be “American Song and Cinema,” and it will feature music from popular stage shows and movies, along with patriotic works ranging from classical to swing.
The concerts will also demonstrate just how many talented and skillful musicians there are entering the Air Force, he added.
“The tour gives the ‘Brass’ the opportunity to show off their versatility, precision ensemble work and amazing soloists,” Jackson noted. “The tour also features the world premier of an exciting work commissioned by The USAF Band in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, Bruce Yurko’s ‘Red Tail Skirmish.’ “
The Tuskegee Airmen is the name of a group of African American pilots who fought during World War II, as the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military aviators in the U.S. armed forces, at a time when the American military was still racially segregated. Although subjected to racial discrimination, both within and outside the Army, the Tuskegee Airmen trained and flew with distinction. Their history is recorded at Fantasy of Flight, an aviation-themed attraction in Polk City that showcases vintage aircraft from the world’s largest private collection, and hosts the “Tuskegee Airmen – They Dared to Fly” exhibit.
Yurko is a composer and member of the Music Educators National Conference.
The United States Air Force Band has been around since the second World War. Its official military life started on Sept. 24, 1941, with the formation of the Bolling Army Air Forces Band. That was under the sponsorship of Lieutenant L.P. Holcomb, commanding officer of the Air Base Group at Bolling Field. Their vision from the start was for the band to serve as the most powerful and effective communicators in the U.S. Department of Defense. “Utilizing the powerful medium of music, the U.S. Air Force Band helps forge new bonds between the United States and the worldwide community, transcending language and connecting people,” the band’s web site notes. “The excellence demonstrated by these professionals on stage is a reflection of the excellence carried out 24 hours a day by airmen stationed around the globe. We are proud to represent these warrior airmen, whose selfless service and sacrifices ensure the freedoms we enjoy as Americans!”
Since the 1940s, the band has performed across the globe under the leadership of 12 different conductors, and its members strive to honor those who have served in the Armed Forces, and to inspire Americans to a heightened sense of patriotism and the benefits of public service. The Florida concerts will follow this example, Jackson noted.
“Joining the Ceremonial Brass will be a featured vocal soloist from the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants, Tech. Sgt. Emily Lewis, who will bring her extraordinary voice to a number of pieces ranging from Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Skylark’ to John Phillips Sousa’s ‘Stars and Stripes Forever,’ ” Jackson noted. He quoted Lewis saying, ”I’m really looking forward to singing in Florida with the Ceremonial Brass. They are outstanding musicians, and I am happy to be given this opportunity.”
The concerts in Central Florida are open to the general public, on a first-come, first-seated basis. Non-ticket holders will be seated 15 minutes before the performance begins.
“You won’t want to miss the rare opportunity to see the explosive power and razor-sharp precision of the U.S. Air Force Ceremonial Brass on tour,” Jackson noted.
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