Hittin' the note: Academy bandsman spans two continents

Senior Airman Benjamin Sampson, a trumpet player with the U.S. Air Force Academy Band. (Air Force photo)

Senior Airman Benjamin Sampson, a trumpet player with the U.S. Air Force Academy Band. (U.S. Air Force photo)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- There are many ties spanning the ocean between the U.S. and Australia, such as sharing a mother language, supporting each other in every major conflict since World War I - and Senior Airman Benjamin Sampson, a trumpet player with the U.S. Air Force Academy Band.

"I'm a dual citizen. My father is from Boston," Sampson said. "I was born and raised in Australia, but we celebrated Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. I feel like the countries are similar, and being in the U.S. Air Force I feel like I'm supporting my grandfather and my uncle, who both fought alongside the U.S. military in World War II and Vietnam. I don't feel far removed from Australia in that sense."

Sampson originally came to the U.S. to study jazz in the Indiana University master's program. While there, he met his wife, now-Senior Airman Kristin Cazenave, who enlisted in the Air Force after graduating and joined the band at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. After he finished some doctoral coursework at the University of Illinois in Champaigne-Urbana, he applied for and accepted a trumpet position in the Air Force Band.

Sampson said joining the military has changed who he is for the better.

"I'm more focused on my fitness than I was before," he said. "I'm setting more long-term goals, with family and also financially. It's taught me how to work hard."

While Sampson was in Basic Military Training, the jazz band he was supposed to join was shut down, and he was transferred to a classical music band.

"I can play classical music pretty well, but being in that environment with such a great group of classical musicians really helped to strengthen the classical side of my playing," he said. "Everyone is a fantastic musician, and they hold each other to a high level of musicianship. You're always growing in some sense."

Master Sgt. Jason Crowe, group leader of The Falconaires in the Air Force Academy Band, said Sampson's trumpet playing showcases the Air Force both in the U.S. and around the world.

"His exceptional talents as a soloist in The Falconaires give our audiences a glimpse into the level of Air Force personnel talent; not just in our bands but across all career fields, officer and enlisted," he said.

Crowe said Sampson's musical abilities and his dual citizenship give him a unique perspective and ability to bond with people from different cultures.

Sampson said he is grateful to be able to do what he loves, and to inspire and raise morale at the same time.

"It's great to be able to do something worthwhile, especially when we get to play for veterans and people who support the military," he said. "When I get up and play and see the patriotism that's so prevalent in this country, I feel proud to be American. At the same time, knowing the histories of the two countries, I feel proud to be Australian."