RUIDOSO, NM, UNITED STATES
Story by: Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton
136th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs (Texas Air National Guard)
The Air National Guard Band of the Southwest contributes its musical talents to maintaining the morale and esprit de corps of the military, fostering community relations, and supporting the recruiting effort.
To accomplish its mission, the Band of the Southwest, also known as the 531st Air Force Band, embarked on a 14-day summer tour to Arizona and New Mexico June 22. The tour will conclude in Las Cruces, NM, July 4, before returning to its home station at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base.
“With Independence Day around the corner, we wanted to feature the music of some American composers and Hollywood legends,” said Lt. Col. Eric Patterson, Band of the Southwest commander. “Our sponsors in Roswell, NM also asked us to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the closing of Walker Air Force Base and the 70th anniversary of the “alien landing” at Roswell, so we are performing music associated with space movies.”
The tour consists of ten performances and thus far, venues have included Northern Arizona University, playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field, Sedona’s Posse Ground Park, and the New Mexico Military Institute. Highlighting a wide variety of music, the band incorporated selections from Star Trek, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Beauty and the Beast, as well as pieces from famous composers William Grant Still and John Phillip Sousa. The concerts end with a patriotic tribute to service members and their families from all branches of the Armed Forces.
“The Band also features nationally-known stars whenever possible,” Patterson said. “For instance, in Flagstaff Mr. David Cripps, artistic director of Orchestra Northern Arizona, guest conducted. Cripps is world-famous as one of the principal French horn soloist of the London Symphony and performed the recordings of the original Star Wars and Superman movies. We were privileged to have Judith Anne Still, president of William Grant Still Music, attend a concert at the Northern Arizona University and the mayor and vice-mayor of Sedona, AZ serving as honorary conductors as well.”
The Band of the Southwest is one of five Air National Guard bands that perform within the continental United States. Through music, the group shares the Air National Guard story with civilian audiences, reminding them of the citizen airmen serving from Fort Worth, Texas to Afghanistan.
The Band of the Southwest features 36 guardsmen consisting of part-time musicians with full-time civilian careers. They come with a variety of experience and expertise, including active duty service in the Air Force and other branches of the military. Among the performers are music educators, university administrators, business professionals, and public servants, all committed to serving their fellow citizens as fully-trained, always ready members of the Air National Guard.
“In my civilian career, I work as the director of information technology for a strategic marketing firm,” said Master Sgt. Matt Wittman, Band of the Southwest Public Affairs manager. “I served for 20 years in the Ohio Air National Guard, and almost four years in the Texas Air National Guard. I remain in the guard not only to continue serving our country, but also because I passionately believe in the importance of the overarching public outreach mission of military bands across the country and around the world. It provides the chance to interact with communities throughout the nation, inspire patriotism and support for the military and country.”
The rest of the bands tour schedule will include:
July 1: Spencer Theater - Alto, NM
July 2: Ruidoso Downs - Ruidoso Downs, NM
Capitan Fairgrounds - Capitan, NM
July 3: Downtown Mall - Las Cruces, NM
July 4: New Mexico State University - Las Cruces, NM
Field of Dreams - Las Cruces, NM
To learn more about opportunities with the Air National Guard Band of the Southwest, or to view the upcoming tour schedule, visit their Facebook website or www.bandofthesouthwest.ang.af.mil.