JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
It used to be the starting point for the Air Force’s newest trainees at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, but when visitors open the front door of this building, they will be greeted by the sounds of beautiful music.
The Air Force Band of the West is moving to the former reception center, building 7246 on Carswell Avenue, where Airmen began their Air Force careers at basic military training.
“This was the reception center that all of us entered when we stepped off that bus and started basic training,” said Chief Master Sgt. Martha S. Garcia, Band of the West chief enlisted manager.
Band of the West has been at its current location, Howard Hall, since 2009. All that will change when they are handed the keys to their new home the end of October.
“This move is a game changer; an absolute game changer,” according to Maj. David Alpar, Band of the West commander.
Renovation of the former reception center began in 2014. The center was gutted so the needs of the musicians and its mission could be met to the best of its ability. However, due to congressional sequestration, construction was halted and did not resume until December 2016. Alphar said things are moving forward again, with a definite end in sight and many new perks the band will enjoy.
“First and foremost, it puts us in one location,” said Alpar.
The $7 million dollar renovation sends a positive note to the musicians moving in.
“I think it will just help to have a dedicated space to feel like your job is important and that the Air Force gave you this facility to work in,” said Garcia.
Some of the musicians who have taken a tour of the soon-to-be ready facility agree.
Master Sgt. Christin Foley, a vocalist who has been with the band for over eight years and likes what she sees.
“I know we’re excited to get in there and start rehearsing and utilizing those facilities right away,” said Foley. “I know that as a team, we’re all in this together,” Foley added.
Some of the new features at the new location include more room, soundproof modules, taller ceilings, individual rooms for each group and a private feedback area after rehearsals. Garcia said in the past, two rock bands shared a room and had to schedule rehearsals. That’s all about to change.
“This will add to the quality of work we already produce,” said Garcia.
With the new features, Foley will have all the equipment she needs in one place, instead of searching for microphones and other essentials needed to rehearse.
“In that new building, some of those rooms are going to be pre-established with equipment and I can just go in and utilize the equipment there without running around,” said Foley.
The new features are especially appealing to one of the newest members of the band, Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Robinson.
Robinson, Band of the West flutist for over a year, said current band rehearsals are challenging because of BMT Airmen marching by outside. Now that she has seen the new building, she can’t wait to move.
“I really got excited about joining the band and serving my country and playing music at the same time,” said Robinson. “It’s a dream come true that we can do both things.”
With the big move getting closer and the holidays just around the corner, packing is underway in a meticulous manner. Band members are packing their sheet music and charts to take to the new building. Depending on what sheet music they might need, will dictate which will get packed last.
Band of the West presently has 50 musicians as well as support staff. Alpar is looking forward to this new chapter.
“The mission will always continue. That has to happen,” said Alpar.