Days of Jazz

Published online: Apr 20, 2017 Articles, Events
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Left: United States Air Force Academy Marching Band in 1955. Right: United States Air Force Academy Marching Band present day.

Big Band Jazz music gets your heart pumping and your feet thumping. Once it was America’s favorite music. Now, it’s somewhat rare to find Big Bands. However, the U.S. Air Force has kept them around for our enjoyment and one of its jazz bands will be performing live for free at the Kirkham Auditorium at BYU-Idaho in Rexburg on April 27 and at the Colonial Theater in Idaho Falls on April 28. Both performances will start at 7 p.m.

Although there have always been musicians in the military, Big Bands really became popular in the military in the 1940s when Major Glenn Miller enlisted. Jazz music, the only uniquely American genre of music, was at its peak at that time. Big Bands have been a part of America’s military since then. 

In order to get into an Air Force band, musicians first have to audition as civilians. If the job is offered, they then have to visit their local Air Force recruiter and go through basic training before officially joining the band. The band does more than just play music, however.

“Our main job is to represent the Air Force Academy when we come out here and do these performances,” said Technical Sergeant Chris Hammiel, a trumpet player and assistant director of operations in the Falconaires Big band.

Even though it is part of the Air Force, the Falconaires Big Band doesn’t really have anything to do with airplanes, but instead does a lot to create better relationships between the military and the community. Smaller bands within the Falconaires Big Band travel around the country thanking communities for hosting Air Force bases and providing free concerts.

“It’s a big Public Relations, [Public Affairs] kind of campaign and we’re sort of the face of it because a lot of people know that ‘There’s an air force base there, but I don’t know anybody there.’ Then we come in the community, we give you a free concert, free CDs, and we put a face to that thing, that institution,” said Staff Sergeant Lencys Esteban Nunez, a saxophone player and tour director in the Falconaires Big Band.

The Falconaires Big Band has a lot of smaller bands within it and the musicians don’t just play jazz. If you can think of a genre of music, they probably play it.

“We have concert bands, jazz bands, marching bands, brass quintets, woodwind quintets, rock bands, country bands,” said Hammiel. “Every band in the Air Force has those bands included in the overall concept of their organization.”

The Idaho Falls concert at the end of April will feature mainly jazz, but the kind of jazz may vary.

“It could be something as traditional as the Glenn Miller…or it could be something as modern as something that one of our members just composed or put together recently and we arrange it for this sort of ensemble and we play it,” said Nunez.

The concert itself is free, but attendees must have a ticket to get in. Tickets are limited to four per person. For more information about admission to the concert in Idaho Falls, contact the Colonial Theater. 

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