Sequestration bonus: More local music from Air Force Band

News-DemocratMay 15, 2013 

Perhaps one of the only silver linings of the sequestration for the metro-east region is the chance to hear the ensembles of U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America play.

Due to budget cuts, ensembles in the band, including the 10-member group Hot Brass, have had to reduce their travel schedule and are instead booking more shows locally. The band's ensembles normally performs at a variety events in a 10-state area.

"We've had to cut travel funding and limit ourselves to the local area," said MSgt. Eugene King, leader of Hot Brass and an O'Fallon resident. "We probably have about a dozen concerts scheduled now starting in May through August."

Ensembles in the U.S. Air Force of MidAmerica include: Hot Brass, the Concert Band, Starlifter, the Ceremonial Band, Shades of Blue Jazz Ensemble, Midwest Winds Woodwind Quintet and Freedom Winds.

The first public concert given by Hot Brass will be May 29 at Lindenwood College in Belleville. The concert begins at 6:30 p.m. in the college auditorium. It is free and open to the public but advance tickets are required due to limited space, King said.

Free E-tickets can be ordered at www.bandofmidamerica.af.mil.

Hot Brass formed in fall 2007 when a group of deployed personnel got together.

"It was very successful so it stuck around," King said. "We're a rock band with a horn section. We play everything from 70s rock to current stuff on the charts today. We'll mix in a little jazz and a little country. We pretty much cover all the popular genres today, even a little bit of hip hop."

The bulk of the mission of Hot Brass and other ensembles who are part of the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America is to perform during events on base. The other part of the mission is community relations and interacting with the public during musical performances to talk about what the Air Force does and what the band does.

Members of the band are active duty military and their sole job is being musicians.

"We do everything it takes to make a music business run," King said. "That's what we do, from booking the gigs and doing recordings to keeping the library and uniforms all stocked and ready."

An active duty military member doesn't just decide they want to be in the band and join up.

"Most of us audition for the band before we ever join the Air Force," King said. "We hold auditions just like any professional orchestra would do. If we accept somebody, then, they go to their recruiter and go to boot camp and join us. Most of the time it's guys who already have bachelor's degrees in music. More than half already have a master's degree and many of the guys already have a doctorate."

King said he has played the trumpet since he was 10 years old and knew he wanted to make music his career.

"It's just what I've always wanted to do and the Air Force turned out to be a great job," he said. "It's one of those places where you can have full-time music work, not just making music, but being in the music industry."

More information about the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America can be found at www.facebook.com/BandofMidAmerica.

Upcoming public performances of the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America include:

* May 17 at 5 p.m.: Midwest Winds at Armed Forces Tribute at the Vandalia Statehouse in Vandalia.

* May 27: Hot Brass at the Classic Car Show at Fast Lane Classic Car, Inc., 427 Little Hills Ind. Blvd. in St. Charles, Mo.

* May 27 at 10 p.m.: Starlifter at the Memorial Day Festival at Eckert's Country Store at 951 Greenmount Road in Belleville.

* June 8 at 6 p.m.: Starlifter at Schweizerfest in the Highland City Square in Highland.

* June 8 at 5 p.m.: Shades of Blue at the Marissa Coal Festival in the Marissa City Park at 600 S. Main St.

Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at jschaaf@bnd.com or 618-239-2667.

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