The United States Air Force Academy Band has been a proud Colorado Springs tradition for over 50 year. The internationally-renowned Academy Band tours widely, performing for official military functions, and most of its 60 members are also active on the local music scene. But now, as KRCC’s Michelle Mercer reports, the Academy Band’s status is changing, and many are worried its role in the community will change too.

Photo: Michelle Mercer

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6 Responses to Changes in Store for the Air Force Academy Band

  1. Crystal says:

    As a former member of the Academy band, I hsave to say: put your big boy and big girl panties on. Maybe you never planned on moving, but the fact that we all still have jobs as musicians in the Air Force is nothing short of a miracle. When I joined 10 years ago, bands never deployed. Guess what? Things change.
    Count your blessings and be glad the Chief of Staff didn’t just cut your band completely. Or any other band, for that matter!

  2. Dr J says:

    I’m checking the concur box with Crystal on this one. Curiously missing is the fact that all the other Air Force Bands bands are in the same boat, or plane, as is the case may be for the Air Force. Fortunately or unfortunately, starting salaries for the military grade of E-3 is currently on par with many civilian jobs in the music sector. Salaries for orchestral positions have been at a standstill(The Cleveland Orchestra), suffered pay cuts(Indianapolis Symphony, Columbus Symphony), or disappeared altogether(Honolulu). And yes the Cleveland Orchestra’s starting salary is over $100K. Most members, at least in the wind section of the Cleveland Orchestra, had their start in other “lesser” orchestras. Over the last fifteen years, thanks to our politicians and public support of the military by the general population, military jobs are relatively well paying and secure. There is little incentive, as a CEO or in this case the CSAF, to offer higher pay to recruit qualified musicians to a “Premiere Band”. There is a sufficient pool of unemployed recruitable civilian talent to choose from. Besides, a cursory overview of the Academy Band indicates that many of their members started in regional Air Force Bands, and that at least a few of them have left the Acdemy Band to rejoin a regional band. It’s difficult for me to shed a tear over a this current situation. However, I do agree that it is unfortunate when one’s life plans are altered by a broken promise.

  3. Stephen says:

    Beware! Long-winded post!

    Change is certainly a part of military life, and some of us have seen more of it than others. I enlisted with the full expectation of moving around quite a bit throughout my career, but had the good fortune to eventually land a spot in the “Chicago Symphony” of AF band assignments. When I came to the Academy Band, it was my 4th assignment in less than 7 years of service. In my time in the AF I’ve been deployed a couple of times, and placed in many different types of ensembles, occasionally playing instruments other than my specialty. Trust me, I’ve learned to expect, and even accept, change and all the surprises it brings, more than many regional bandsmen. And my well-worn big-boy pants still fit just fine.
    :-)

    What I never expected, and have difficulty accepting, is an inexplicable reversal of a policy (I almost hesitate to say “promise”) that we have all been lead to believe we could count on. Some of us made extremely important life decisions that we would NEVER have even considered had we been in regional assignments, and now we are facing potential upheavals that we would never have anticipated. In our case, we have extended family who transplanted to Colorado Springs and will be left alone here should we move. We have employees who will lose income and a community that will lose its only arts education center.

    So, although I, myself, am an old hat at change (even more so in my civilian days), I led others to count on the stability of my assignment. Now I feel badly for misleading them. I wonder if the instigators of this change do.

    I don’t expect pity. But I would like, however, a better explanation than the ones we’ve been given for why a long-standing trust has been betrayed.

    It may be tempting for some folks outside the organization to say “it serves them right for being so privileged all these years,” but consider the larger picture. As an Air Force bandsmen, we should mourn the loss of a great career opportunity for us all, and be concerned for what this says about the value the AF places on our profession and its quality. As a musician, or even a music educator, shouldn’t you WANT to see our society place such a high priority on music that even its military would offer special benefits to its best musicians? Well, the fact is – it doesn’t. The military musical value generally reflects that of society. This should cause some concern to all professional musicians.

  4. Ryan says:

    Amen, Stephen!

  5. Nancy says:

    Stephen you are so good at putting into words what many feel. We are each on our own walk with the decision that has been made for us. For Gary and I it opens up the door of possibilities. For others it marks a beginning of what others in the Air Force have had to deal with for their entire careers, except they new that when they accepted the job. I only wish that the other people who commented on this post were as thoughtful of others feelings as you are my friend. This change has not only put our band in upheaval it is creating havoc in our career field. There are many folks who are weighing all angles of the ramifications of this decision. These people are not whining. They are venting and trying to figure out what to do, how to do it, how to deal with the logistics of what they will do and are dealing with the emotions of their spouses, their children and possibly their extended families who have uprooted themselves to move to the same cities as them only to find out that they will possibly be leaving them there. Please do not pass judgment on a group of people who are working towards figuring out how to process a major change in their lives. I am excited about this change, but I would NEVER walk around our squadron saying “Well, it’s great for us, things change, life goes on, just get over it”. How heartless. In the spectrum of disasters and financial failure around the globe, yes this is a minor issue, but it is still an issue. Let the people who are having to go through it have the time to mourn a constant in their lives that is no longer constant and move on in their way.

  6. George says:

    While I feel compassion for the network of friends, family, and community in the area, I can’t help but feel that this was partially brought upon themselves. When the Academy deployed their Woodwind Quintet to the desert, they had the honor of performing for Embassies and many other high profile engagements (as you would expect from a woodwind quintet). They also had very nice lodging for their stay. Pictures began appearing on Facebook, posted by those members, of a deployed military unit lounging at the beach. This angered many, many people, including some Air Force high brass. While they claim that the two events are unrelated, I am sure that the carelessness and seemingly heartless appearance of those photos during that deployment does nothing to help their current plight. I can tell you for certainty that it made a mess of things for those bands that subsequently deployed. In a careerfield that is constantly barraged by knee-jerk reactions, one cannot help but connect those two events.

    On the flip side, they neglect to tell you that this same process is happening to ALL of the military’s academy bands: the Navy has already lost premier status for their Academy Band, West Point (the Army’s Academy Band) is currently under the microscope… so why is it a surprise that the Air Force is currently undergoing the same thing?

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