Vocalist Shares Positive Message with Air Force Band

  • Published
  • By SMSgt. Dan Heaton
  • US Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa

With the Wings of Swing band in perfect harmony behind her, the band’s vocalist, Senior Airman Natalie Angst, worked her way through a collection of American classics, ranging from old New Orleans jazz standards to a cover of a recent Billie Eilish hit. For Angst and the seven-member band, the June 6 performance at a reception on the roof of the Bundestag, the German parliament building in Berlin, was just another day of building relationships through music.  

“I love being stationed in Germany,” Angst said. “The caliber of the musicians I get to work with and then the people that we meet at our performances; That is what it is really all about representing the U.S. and contributing to the goodwill between our nations.” 

The Wings of Swing is one of several component ensembles of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa Band, which is based at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The band travels to locations across the two continents to perform, as part of the Air Force’s outreach to Allied and partner nations. The band spent several days in June at the Berlin Air Show and surrounding venues, playing at a variety of events, including playing at the show’s public open house days, where the band played under the wing of a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft as thousands of people listened.  

“That’s the key part of our mission,” explained Staff Sgt. Bryan Smith, the band’s drummer and non-commissioned officer in charge. “Even if they only hear part of one song, it is to share a positive message with the people we interact with.” 

Angst joined the Air Force about three years ago, joining during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. She grew up near Travis Air Force Base in California, which is home to the Air Force’s Band of the Golden West. In high school and afterward, she had performed a few times as a civilian with that band.  

Like many Air Force musicians, she spent some time working as a professional musician before deciding to audition for a spot with an Air Force band and enlisting – a decision heavily influenced by her experience with the band at Travis.  

Among the bands she worked with prior to joining the Air Force was the Glenn Miller Orchestra, which was started by Glenn Miller, a famed big band leader who was serving as a major and the director of the U.S. Army Air Forces Orchestra during World War II. Miller’s plane went down under unknown circumstances over the English Channel on Dec. 15, 1944, but the civilian orchestra he started continues to tour and perform.  

After she joined the Air Force, Angst was assigned to the band at Travis for about a two and a half years before being assigned to the band at Ramstein. She said among the highlights of her band experiences was learning how to sing two songs in Latvian for a concert in Latvia and becoming proficient in singing the German national anthem in German. She also learned to sing one song in Yiddish. 

“That keeps it exciting,” she said. “You never know what kind of music you’ll be doing next.”