For nearly eight decades, the United States Air Force Band of the West has been lifting the morale of service members at home and abroad, as well as entertaining the public and strengthening ties to the community right here in San Antonio, where it’s based at Lackland AFB. Last month I had the pleasure of meeting members of the U.S. Air Force Band of the West to learn the many ways in which they fulfill their mission, “to go into communities, and to honor, inspire, and connect,” according to Maj Dustin M. Doyle, our guide for the visit.
The Band of the West includes eleven different ensembles that can be broken off from the full band, that is made up of 40-50 active duty personnel.
Master Sgt Hughey Hancock explained the Band of the West’s performance schedule, budget and coverage. The group typically makes over 300 appearances per year, traveling over 125,000 miles to reach audiences across seven states and Puerto Rico.
Nightwatch is the wind quintet of the Band of the West, and often performs in ceremonial settings or as background music at official functions. A1C Rose Valby and the ensemble performed “Gallito,” by Santiago Lope, which she characterized as “a Spanish march that models the spirit of a bull fight.”
Hear the performance in the audio player below.
Members of the Freedom Brass highlighted the role the Band of the West has in outreach at schools, showcasing the military as a career path for young musicians. As Maj. Doyle explained, “We literally get to hire our musicians. We are the only organization in the United States Air Force that has that capability. So when we hire, we hire toward the needs of the mission.” That means that if the Air Force is looking for a rock drummer for their band, Top Flight, they can actively recruit for such a position, said Maj. Doyle. “In the Air Force, you typically go through basic, and then you go to a tech school. There’s no tech school for musicians. You’re hired, and then once you get out of basic, you start the mission right away.”
In 2018, the Band of the West celebrated its hometown’s tricentennial with the album “San Antonio Rose,” featuring a collection of classical selections that evoke the bicultural spirit of San Antonio.
You can request the Band of the West to perform at a public event (NOTE: They are not allowed to play at fundraising events). Details are online at: https://www.music.af.mil/Bands/Band-of-the-West/