Composing a Masterpiece: NATO Fest 2011

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn L. Rich
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Hundreds of military members from seven countries have been preparing for this Saturday night for weeks. The venue is set and tickets are on sale.

Bands from all over Europe will team up for the biennial NATO Music Festival, held at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion, foot-ball stadium, Kaiserslautern, Germany, June 11.

"This is a big deal, this only happens in this area once every other year, and there are bands from all over Europe that will be participating, " said Master Sgt. Steve Schaughency, horn player and noncommissioned officer in charge of publicity for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band.

The participating bands will present their nation's culture as well as individual musical styles. Among those that will perform are The Upper Austria Military Band, the Royal Naval Band from Belgium, the Latvian National Armed Forces Band from Riga, the Koszalin Military Band from Poland, the military ensemble from Luxembourg will be accompanied by their special guest star Joy Fleming and representing Germany, the Naval Band Baltic Sea and a drill formation from the Guards Battalion.

The United States will be represented by none other than the USAFE Band. According to Sergeant Schaughency, they have been practicing non-stop for weeks to ensure that everyone is on the same sheet of music and each move is precise to accompany their music.

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of NATO Music Festival. Since 1965, the U.S., their regional and NATO allies have been presenting this unique celebration. This tradition also represents the ties between the people in the region and the North Atlantic Alliance.

To ensure a complete ensemble for this performance the USAFE band needed reinforcements; 20 musicians from three state-side bases were called in to augment positions. Members from U.S. Band of Liberty, Hanscome AFB, Mass., U.S. Air Force Academy Band, Peterson AFB, Colo., and the Band of the West Lackland AFB, Texas, joined the band to complete the 53 person group.

"This is my first time to Germany and the first NATO Fest that I have participated in," said Airman Porter. Airman 1st Class Adam Porter, a tuba player with 23 years of experience in his craft, was augmented to the USAFE Band from the U.S. Band of Liberty.

"The other band members are great and the music is great, I think that it is going to be an awesome field show," said Airman Porter

For other augmentees, the opportunity is a homecoming. Master Sgt. Andrew Held, a seasoned trumpet player with more than 30 years of practice, also joined the USAFE Band from the U.S. Band of Liberty.

"I was stationed [in Germany] for more than 15 years in my career, and this will be my eighth NATO Fest," said Sergeant Held. "When I was given the opportunity to come back, I jumped at it. It has been like coming home again."

Once all of the people needed came together, now comes the task of making it harmonize.

Putting on field shows are difficult to organize, according to members of the band. It becomes a feat of getting more than 50 people, not only to play the music selection from memory, but to move in unison to the choreography.

"We have changed the show so much, that we had to completely redo the drill portion from the 2008 show, ," said Maj. Matthew Henry, USAFE band commander and veteran of the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corp., Chicago, Ill. It has taken a lot of tweaking and countless hours of organization."

After the plan is down, it is time to get all the musicians prepared for the endeavor, Major Henry insisted.

"We will be playing the music from memory, but people will also be carrying their instruments and have to move at the right time to, to the right place on the field," said Sergeant Schaughency.

Through the weeks of tedious practicing and hours of drills, the members of the band said they know that it will all be worth it in the end.

"We have put a lot into this show, and I think that is going to be evident to the audience," said Major Henry. "Even though we are going to be one of the smallest groups out there, we are going to be among the best."