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Tech. Sgt. Timothy Stombaugh, Wild Blue Country’s drummer, performs at a concert in the park in Monument, Colo., July 28. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Bill Evans)
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Band aids Academy, Air Force outreach mission

Posted 8/12/2011   Updated 8/12/2011 Email story   Print story


by Gino Mattorano
Air Force Academy Public Affairs

8/12/2011 - U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. -- German novelist Berthold Auerbach once wrote, "Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." The Air Force Academy Band uses the power of its music to communicate Air Force core values to listeners across the globe.

The Academy Band is one of 12 regional Air Force bands responsible for providing world-class musical products and services for military, recruiting, and civic outreach events.

The Academy Band, however, is unique in that it also supports the Academy's national recruiting mission, according to Master Sgt. Steven Przyzycki, a percussionist and NCO in charge of band public affairs.

"We work closely with the Academy's Admissions department to support their recruiting efforts," Przyzycki said. "We focus our efforts on areas that may not have a lot of exposure to the military, such as large urban areas and other areas that support the Academy's diversity outreach efforts."

Some may wonder how the band can generate interest in the Academy and the Air Force through music, but their efforts are a key part of the Air Force outreach mission.

The band not only performs while they're on tour, they also visit schools and perform for and with the students there.

"We represent the men and women of the Air Force, and in some areas, we might be the only interaction these young people have with the military," Przyzycki said. "We introduce them to music, but we also tell them about the myriad jobs available in the Air Force while teaching them about pride in their country."

There are 53 members of the Academy's Concert Band, but in order to satisfy a variety of tastes in music, the band can be broken up into several smaller classical groups, such as jazz, rock 'n' roll and country.

"This allows us to do more performances each year," said Przyzycki, "and it also enables us to reach a broader audience."

Wild Blue Country is the band's country music ensemble and a prime example of how the band caters to a variety of musical tastes. During a recent performance, the group played for more than 1,100 people at a concert in the park in Monument.

"It's always great to be able to play for hometown folks," said Senior Master Sgt. Jerome Oddo, the group's superintendent as well as a vocalist and guitar player. "There are a lot of retirees and (Academy) graduates in the local community, and it's always fun to play for audiences (overflowing) with American spirit."

In addition to its civic outreach efforts, Air Force bands also deploy in support of overseas contingency operations. There is always at least one Air Force band in the theater of operations.

Wild Blue Country just returned from a deployment, where the six-person group split their time between entertaining deployed military members and playing for local towns and villages.

"What an awesome opportunity to bring a taste of home to our troops," said Oddo, who's been with the band for more than 12 years. "While we're touring around the United States, people often come up to us after a performance and tell us that if we make it overseas, to tell the men and women serving there that we support them. It's our duty and privilege to pass that message on to our military members serving in harm's way."

While many civilian musical groups perform in the deployed environment, they often can't travel to forward operating bases, so Air Force bands bridge that gap to give more deployed members a brief respite from the rigors of war.

"I know they really enjoy our performances, but I think we get more out of it than they do," Oddo said. "It's hard to put into words, but it's definitely the highlight of our trips."

Air Force bands also visit towns and villages in the deployed environment and their performances help communicate U.S. objectives in the region.

"People abroad may see the U.S. military as an object, rather than a tangible collection of people," said Przyzycki, who's been a bandsmen for more than 14 years. "We not only represent the Air Force Academy, we represent the entire Air Force, and often, the United States."

Whether deployed or at home, audiences generally appreciate the band's outreach efforts, Przyzycki said.

"Some people may not trust the government, but what they do trust are things that appeal to their senses," he said. "That's been proven through history. When our bands play, we're able to put a warm, more human feeling to their perception of the military and our government."

To maximize that effect, the band plans its trips based on strategic or recruiting value. According to the Academy Band's website, http://www.usafacademyband.af.mil, its vision is to perform strategically designed musical missions -- planned, packaged and delivered with precision.

"The professional Airmen-musicians in the Academy Band ... are dedicated to serving our great nation and representing the young men and women at the Academy," said Academy Band Commander Lt. Col. Larry Lang. "Their wonderful versatility and professionalism reflects the great diversity and ingenuity that makes our Air Force the greatest air, space and cyberspace force the world has ever known."

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