JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
When a musical band performs, there’s usually a conductor who leads the group – but before they ever take center stage, there’s someone making sure they’re at the right place and right on time.
For Stanley Lockaby, Band of the West musical resource specialist at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, 50 years of military service is a milestone – but he insists he is not ready for the next chapter of rest and relaxation.
Lockaby recently celebrated his 50th anniversary this past summer. His career in the Air Force began in 1967 when he first reported for duty with the 695th Air Force Band of the Black Hills at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota as a flute player.
Music is something that came naturally to Lockaby from the time he first picked up a flute when he was eight years old. Later on, as he got older, he learned to play the guitar and trumpet. From junior high school through his senior year, he performed in a band, and continued by studying music in college.
“Listening to (classical) tunes and listening to nice orchestras and jazz players makes me happy,” said Lockaby.
After numerous assignments both stateside and overseas, Lockaby decided to retire after 26 years of active duty service. During the retirement process, Lockaby was approached by a representative from Band of the West and was asked to apply for a civilian position with them. After waiting nearly six months for the process to take place, Lockaby was hired in 1994.
Band of the West, formed in October 1941 at Moffett Field, California, relocated to then Lackland Air Force Base in 1947. Airmen assigned to Band of the West are highly-trained professional musicians who serve their country through music. They perform for military and civilian audiences throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, according to their official website.
For Lockaby, a normal day at the office involves assisting in Band of the West performances scheduling. His role as musical resource specialist keeps him focused on making sure questions are answered and plans are finalized.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get a hold of someone if he doesn’t answer,” he added. “I have more time than the musicians do. I’m in my office where I can do things like that and not have to worry about going to rehearsal.”
Lockaby’s colleagues appreciate his efforts.
“You know and respect Mr. Lockaby for his position and what he does, but at the same time Mr. Lockaby is the kind of person you can just walk in and have a conversation with,” said Master Sgt. Nicholas Wellman, an audio engineer.
Wellman recalls his when he was a young marching band drummer with Band of the West and one morning he missed the bus for a performance at JBSA-Randolph. Lockaby volunteered to drive him over to the installation in time for the performance.
“He did that for me without any motive whatsoever. That’s the kind of person that he is,” added Wellman.
Lockaby’s kindness is wide-spread with a band favorite: donut Friday.
“People just absolutely love that. He continues that and it’s out of the goodness of his heart,” added Wellman.
The band’s adventures through the years is what makes Lockaby proud to play a role in their success. To this day, he can still pick up his flute and perform with the band, if needed. The music has even reached those who are serving in the military abroad.
“Some of our folks go overseas into the war zone areas and are able to play for those individuals,” he said. “That makes some of them so happy to be able to hear the music and see the musicians, to get on stage with them and just make them have a relaxing evening rather than worrying about what they’re doing overseas all the time”.
Through the years, Lockaby has had a front row seat to the band’s expansion.
“Back in the day of ’67, when we had 35 members, you had what I would call very small pieces,” he said. “Nowadays, the band has about 60 members which can perform quite a bit more. The band sounds much better than they did then.”
As for the caliber of the musicians, Lockaby says they’re some of the best around.
“They’re very strong musicians. Most of them have their master’s degree and some have their doctorate,” Lockaby said.
When Band of the West performs, audiences can hear music ranging from classical, country, marches and even mambos, according to their website.
They’ve had the honor of performing for presidents, heads of states and dignitaries from around the world. Honors like these is what keeps Lockaby on his beat of making beautiful music available for the masses and he says he’s not making any plans to stop.
“When I decide to retire, I would say hopefully they would be able to find someone that loves their job as much as I do and wants to do it,” Lockaby said. “Even one of the generals told me to put together a booklet of some sort if I could to make sure those people know who to call, when to call and who to speak to at some of these agencies.”
This bandsman wants to keep the music playing for now. He’s already helping coordinate several local performances later this year.
“Being 70 years old, I think it keeps me younger working,” Lockaby said. “I’m just not sure I want to punch the button.”