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Home : News : News
NEWS | April 16, 2014

Fiesta in Blue: artistically bolstering community relations

By Airman 1st Class Kenna Jackson Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

It's April again in Military City, USA and excitement is in the air for the annual Fiesta San Antonio. However, the locals aren't the only ones prepping for this celebration. Fiesta in Blue, an ensemble from the U.S. Air Force Band of the West, is also practicing for its 7 p.m. performances April 22 and 23 at the Edgewood Theatre, San Antonio.

"In addition to our normal rehearsal schedule, we devote many hours practicing musical styles to appeal to a wide audience, which ensures our performances will be excellent," Staff Sgt. Blair Raker, music director and trombonist, said.

Fiesta in Blue has contributed to the vibrancy of Fiesta San Antonio for more than 20 years, inspiring participants to don colorful clothing, enjoy a variety of foods and listen to various forms of entertainment.

"We represent the military community in the San Antonio area," Raker said. "Along with providing entertainment, our mission is to help the city celebrate its great musical and cultural diversity and bolster community relations."

With 19 artists, ranging from airmen first class to master sergeants, Fiesta in Blue is an accumulation of inspirations, musical passions and propelling ambitions to achieve one goal - to be amazing on- and off-stage.

"Our performances help shape the community's image of the Air Force, making 'excellence in all we do' our biggest focus," Master Sgt. Eric Frank, NCO in charge of the Band of the West's Dimensions in Blue ensemble, said.

Upholding the Air Force's image is just one of the challenges the artists must face while on stage, he said. Another challenge is acting as their own "roadies," which means they deal with the technical aspect of assembling the stage, from audio and lighting to unloading and reloading heavy equipment.

"It's hard to always be on your best and make smooth theme changes, but, luckily, we have some of the best and highly experienced musicians," Frank said.

Raker also said challenges are made easier because of the good relationships performer have with one another and their will to work hard to improve.

"We are much like an extended family and get along wonderfully," Raker said.

Some of the songs people will hear at the Fiesta concerts include: "Funky Cha-Cha," "Latin Dance," "Bluesette," "La Negra," "Peanut Vendor," "Rhythm of Our World," "Perfidia," "Libertango," "Love for Sale," "Sandunga," "One Mint Julep," "El Rancho Grande," "Guadalajara," "America the Beautiful" and, Frank's personal favorite, "Have You Met Miss Jones."

"I'm most excited about performing 'Have You Met Miss Jones', because it was arranged specifically for our group by our musical director, Staff Sgt. Ryan Leatherman," Frank said.

According to Racker, the song is normally a swing jazz standard, but after some changes the song has higher energy and intensity than the original version, which is perfect for celebrating San Antonio diversity.

"Music is a conversation that specializes in shifting moods and bringing people closer together," Frank said. "It's hard and stressful, and at times we spend more time with each other than with own families, but we have great personalities, talent, professionalism and we all love our job."