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Home : News : News
NEWS | Oct. 25, 2018

U.S. Air Force Band of the West mentors next generation

By Senior Airman Krystal Wright 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Band of the West members have started a music mentoring program for students in grades K through 12.

Band members visited four Title 1 schools multiple times throughout the semester as part of a community outreach program.

Visiting the schools on several occasions versus the previous once-a-year schedule helps the Air Force mentors build a stronger relationship with the students.

“Music is a universal language,” said Airman 1st Class Michael Steiger, U.S. Air Force Band of the West trombonist. “It can convey things that could not be conveyed through words. It creates a common bond where there was not one before.”

The schools included Irving Academy Middle School, Marshall High School, Villarreal Elementary and Adams Hill Elementary.

During their time with the children, the musicians talked about their instruments and demonstrated different kinds of music and various styles each instrument can produce. Some of the instruments they introduced to the children included the bassoon, flute, piccolo, different kinds of trombones, drums, clarinet and numerous small percussion instruments like bells and a triangle.

Not only did the Airmen play for the children, they also had the children play for them and then provide constructive feedback along with tips and tricks to improve.

“We are creating a dynamic experience for them,” Steiger said. “With music, you are not just observing, you’re engaging with it and your imagination is crafting something with it.”

The mentor program has received positive feedback from both the students and school staff.

“I think it is absolutely amazing how you incorporate music into the Armed Forces; I had no clue and I find it very interesting,” said Alicia Perez, Villarreal Elementary computer teacher. “It brings joy not only to your (troops) but now to our students. I think it is pretty awesome.”

My favorite part is the students learning that wearing the uniform doesn’t just mean defending the country and being strong, but also having another part, that soft part … bringing happiness to everyone,” she continued.

The other teachers echoed Perez’s sentiments.

“I thought it was really neat that they were willing to come out and play for kids and be part of our community,” said Mary-Ellen Fimbel, Villarreal Elementary music teacher. “My favorite part is seeing the kids get excited about music and the chance to interact with military members. It is exciting for them to see that music has an application in the real world and to get to hear quality professionals.”

By mentoring the children musically, the band members also have the opportunity to engage with them as military members, which can be a unique opportunity for some of the children.

“A lot of the students ask ‘why are you here at our school’ and I ask them if they knew anyone in the military or was a veteran and the majority have never met anyone in the military,” said Airman 1st Class Burton Fowler, U.S. Air Force Band of the West bassoon player. “I think it is important to let them see that we are just regular people like them who choose to serve and that anyone willing to work can do the same.”

The other Airmen not only shared those feelings, but expressed pride in being able to be ambassadors for the military to these school.

“Our core mission values as a unit is to honor, inspire and connect,” Steiger said. “This is the kind of mission where we hit all three: we are honoring those who serve before us, are serving and will serve; we are inspiring and getting these kids super amped about band; and represent the military.”

“This is a meaningful vocation to take up,” he added. “To serve your country is an important thing that you choose to do; it’s not conscripted. We do it in service to all and it includes those kids, and they should understand that. Not to sound cheesy, but when we put on the uniform, we serve all Americans.”