Arts & Entertainment

Air Force band to play free show in Pasco

Making a living as a musician can be tough, but not for enlisted men and women in the Air Force.

Although there are music groups in all branches of the military, the Air Force has 33 different bands stationed around the globe.

Every member of those bands has a full-time job providing music to American civilians, as well as regular performances for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Aug. 14, the Air Force Concert Band of the Golden West will bring its patriotic sound to Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco. And the best part of all is that the concert is free, though you'll still need a ticket to get through the stadium gate.

Tech Sgt. Jim Masters and Senior Airman Eddie Ochsner dropped into the Tri-Cities recently to check out Edgar Brown Stadium.

"We usually pay a visit to concert sites beforehand to get an idea on what kind of rehearsal space and dressing rooms are available," Masters said. "The Concert Band of the Golden West has about 45 musicians who will be performing in the concert in Pasco so we like to know in advance what kind of room we'll have to work in."

Masters is a 22-year veteran of the Air Force. He also plays trumpet. Ochsner, who joined the Air Force five years ago, plays the French horn.

"Our concerts are always free and it's our way of thanking the American people for supporting us," Ochsner said.

Though the Concert Band of the Golden West has been around since 1941, it's had several name changes.

It was initially called The Air Force Band. Then it changed to 15th Air Force Band of the Golden West, Air Mobility Command Band of the Golden West, America's Band in Blue, then became the 504th Air Force Band of the Golden Gate.

Its current name was established in 1997, and Maj. Keith Bland has been its conductor since 2008.

Most people might think military bands play only patriotic music, and at one time that would have been fairly accurate, Masters said. But these days the Air Force has progressed far beyond that tradition.

"We now have bands that perform rock and jazz as well as brass and woodwind quintets," Masters said. "We're even performing hip-hop now."

He hopes to bring the Air Force's rock band to the Tri-Cities sometime in the near future. The band is stationed at Travis Air Force Base near San Francisco. It's the only active-duty Air Force band west of the Rockies, Masters said.

In addition to performing for civilian communities throughout California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada, the band supports 10 Air Force bases, five Air Force Reserve wings and performs more than 400 concerts a year.

"Music is a full-time job for all of us," Masters said. "We rehearse most days when we're not on tour and we maintain a pretty extensive music library."

Though the Air Force does recruit musicians out of college, it also accepts musicians who haven't been to college.

"The auditions are demanding, but not for a good musician," Masters said.

The Pasco concert will start with an overture and will also feature a few soloists.

The band also performs free concerts Aug. 12 at Franklin Park in Yakima, Aug. 13 at Memorial Park in Ellensburg, Aug. 15 in Cordiner Hall on the Whitman College campus in Walla Walla, and Aug. 16 in the Vert Auditorium in Pendleton. Times for those concerts can be found at www.bandofthegoldenwest.af.mil.

Tickets for the Tri-City show will be available at the door but also can be obtained by sending a self-adressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 4596, Pasco, WA, 99302.

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