Story by Gisselle Hernandez, Assistant Features Editor
The United States Air Force Band of Mid-America performed a free concert, hosted by Murray State and Town & Gown Thursday, Oct. 15. at Lovett Auditorium.
The U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America, situated in Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, is one of the various bands under the United States Air Force Band. The regional band tours year-round across 10 states from Michigan to Arkansas. The concert band, which includes a Murray State graduate from 1987 up until this year, played for the first time at Murray State Thursday night.
More than 300 tickets were given out before the show and were still being given out at the doors when they opened at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. When the performance began at 7:30 p.m., Racer Band members, Armed Services families and music enthusiasts alike sat in the seats of Lovett as emcees Senior Airman Denver Murphy and Airman First Class Anneke Bentley led them in singing the national anthem.
The 45 airmen, who delivered a variety of songs, from marches and patriotic songs to rock and roll classics, were led by First Lieutenant Wilson Wise, Flight Commander and Assistant Conductor of the band.
“Concertino for Four Percussion and Wind Ensemble” was one of the performances that earned hearty applause from the audience after four airmen rapidly went back and forth between percussion sets without missing a beat.
The bit that stole the show, however, was the Elvis Presley act titled “Hail to the King (…of Rock and Roll)” during which Murphy impersonated Murphy the King of Rock himself.
Complete with a blue jumpsuit, the senior airmen vocalized to classics such as “Hound Dog” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.” The audience laughed as Murphy shook his “rubber legs.”
“Elvis” even interacted with the audience as he came down and serenaded a woman during “Blue Suede Shoes,” an act many people found humorous and endearing.
After a 15-minute intermission, the band performed a few more songs, including a tribute to Abraham Lincoln titled “Lincoln Portrait.”
Andrea Bender, sophomore from Evansville, Indiana, felt the emotion in the room as the band played.
“I love the energy they all had because it made the performance 10 times more enjoyable,” she said.
Bender, a music student whose father served for six years in the Air Force, believes Murray State should continue hosting an event like this, since there are many students like herself who have friends and family who served or are serving.
Nearing the end of the concert, the band paid tribute to audience members who were affiliated with any of the Armed Services, since Wise said “families sacrifice as much as our servicemen do.” Whether the person had directly served or knew someone who did, they were asked to stand as the audience applauded them for their service.
As a collection of patriotic songs closed the show, newfound fans waited eagerly to meet the performers that had blown them away that night.
Justice Frank, junior from Elizabeth, Kentucky and clarinet-player in the Murray State Racer Band, believes that although every branch of the military has their own way of doing things, the bands are what’s universal.
“I’m glad to live in a world where no matter who you’re affiliated with, music is still music,” she said. “To live in an area that supports groups like these that can come visit is an experience I didn’t think I’d ever have.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the day before the show, different members of the band conducted clinics in the Price Doyle Fine Arts complex, where they coached music students on their respective instruments, an exercise that is definitely beneficial, Director of Bands and Orchestra Dennis Johnson said.
“Any time you can get an opinion from a professional musician to improve on yourself, it has got to help,” he said.
Interested musicians can audition for an opening position by visiting the website bandofamerica.af.mil, an opportunity, Bentley believes, that can turn into a career.
“There’s always the ‘struggling artist’ type of thing,” she said. “But I think that when you’re good at what you do and you really put in the work, it’ll show.”