Building sound bonds

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt. Jocelyn L. Rich
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The shuffle of feet echo throughout the acoustics of the concert hall, the warbles of conversation rise and fall, bouncing off the vaulted ceiling. Over the masses, the tuning note sounds, and the entire band joins in unison and the audience hushes. After a moment of perfect silence the hall explodes in an eruption of music.

Not everyone has had the opportunity to experience a concert. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band is trying to change that. Bringing music to others that may not otherwise have had a chance to see, and hear such an encounter.

The USAFE Band is currently on a tour spanning three countries, and seven cities throughout Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

"For a lot of these places that we have been this tour, it is the first time that they have seen an Air Force band, in their city," said Staff Sgt. Rachel Trimble, vocalist and operations representative with the USAFE Band.

The goal of the band and of this tour is to build partnerships with our European allies through music.

"Our goal is to continue building partnerships with nations that we have been working with, in NATO and in Europe," said Master Sgt. Steve Schaughency, horn player and NCO in charge of publicity with the USAFE Band. "The way that we can do that best through our organization is by playing music."

The band members wear their uniforms during set up, performance, and tear down, so there is no question who they are, and what they represent.

"The performance enables us to represent the excellence of the Air Force," said Maj. Matthew Henry, commander and conductor of the USAFE Band.

This tour area has significance in music history, and has produced some of the world's most famous composers.

"I have been very excited about this tour area," said Major Henry. "Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are very near and dear to our hearts as musicians."

The reception of the concert band has been very positive in each of the venues.

"We have had a really great response from the audiences," said Master Sgt. Joshua Gates, clarinetist and first sergeant with the USAFE Band. "I think that they really appreciate the programming the band has put together for them. It is a really exciting show; there is a lot of different variety, something for everyone."

Using music to reach out to our allies is a useful instrument that the Air Force can use, through its band to build a relationship, where language barriers may exists.

"There is the old cliché that is very true, that is music is a universal language," said Sergeant Schaughency. "Many of us could not hold a conversation with the audience members and we don't need to, because of what we do through our music."

This tour has a unique addition; three Slovak nationals have joined the band during their stay in Slovakia. They accompany the band to facilitate various logistics, and to help communicate with the audiences during the five shows the band will perform in the country.

Dominika Uhríková, a freelance translator, was contacted by the U.S. embassy in Bratislava to join the USAFE Band during this stretch of the tour to narrate and translate. She has been more embedded in the building of partnerships between the U.S. Air Force and her country as a result and has been moved by her experience.

"I was very surprised to see that the military personnel are normal people who can smile and joke," said Ms. Uhríková, "I think that my perspective of the military has changed a lot."

Building partnerships happens on a personal level and this tour has been successful in the message that they are trying to convey.

"Everybody is just so kind and is very interested in Slovak culture, which I appreciate very much," said Ms. Uhríková. "You all seem charmed and amazed at my country, which enables me to look at my own country from a different perspective."

The USAFE Band and the Air Force will continue to reach people through their building partnerships and community outreach initiatives to ensure that we cultivate our established bonds with our European allies.

"We know that we have made a difference at the end of a concert when you get some face time with the audience, you see that you have really evoked an emotion, and lasting memories," said Sergeant Trimble.