The USAF Band of Mid-America’s Shades of Blue jazz ensemble performed in Pease Auditorium on Tuesday, Jan 21. The band consisted of 16 musicians and two vocalists who accompanied the band during four songs.
As guests began to arrive, Frank Sinatra filled their ears and they got their first glimpse of the performance. Large, bright-red music podiums embossed with the Air Force logo were lined up on stage.
The band opened the concert with an upbeat song and followed with an introduction.
“We are your United States Airforce Band of Blue jazz ensemble and our mission is to honor, inspire and connect. We are able to do that through the international language and power of music,” stated Technical Sergeant Rob Hyatt, Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of Shades of Blue.
Technical Sergeant Rob Hyatt Non-Commissioned Officer then invited the audience to rise, if able, for the playing of the National Anthem. In response to the tune, played beautifully with a dramatic and striking jazz twist, the crowd applauded for some time.
The tone quickly changed once the USAF Band of Mid-America’s Shades of Blue jazz ensemble performed their version of the ‘90s hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. After the song’s conclusion, Sgt. Hyatt asked the audience if anyone recognized it and was met with fervent roars of enthusiasm.
Soon, it was time to introduce vocalists Senior Airman Melissa Edgmon and Airman First Class Dana Bowers. Between one of their four songs, Edgmon invited the onlookers to take as many pictures and recording as wanted. They encouraged tagging the band on social media. The audience was informed that the USAF Band of Mid-America’s Shades of Blue social media team may even contact the viewer for permission to re-post the image.
“For Home of Air Mobility Commands, our mission there is: to get the right effect, to the right places, at the right time. Which essentially means we can get anything anywhere via aircraft. Whether it be transfer of supplies, transfer of people or for humanitarian efforts. We also specialize in aeromedical evacuation, which is getting wounded men and women off the battlefield and back to their families as quickly as possible,” explained Bowers regarding the exact responsibilities of the Scott Air Force base located in St. Clair County, Ill.
Towards the end of the show, Sgt. Hyatt took the stage back in order to thank the whole EMU School of Music and Dance, Professor of Trombone and Jazz, Donald J Babcock, as well as the Director of the School of Music and Dance, Christopher Barrick. He invited both men to the stage and presented them with a signed picture of the band. After a round of applause, the band played all of the service songs of the armed forces in dedication to the veterans and their families.
“It was pleasant to be among service people and enjoy the music,” said John Rosevear, a member of the audience and past Marine.
To conclude their performance, the ensemble played “America the Beautiful” as a tribute to the nation and a reminder for what we fight for. An encore of “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller followed.
“[The value of concerts like this is] that nowadays, with so few people serving in the military, it’s important to make sure we connect with the younger audience and get the uniform in front of them - to create connections,” said Edgmon
“It is really nice to perform for veterans and give back in the little ways we can,” added Bowers.
The standard rehearsal period lasts about ten days. The USAF Band of Mid-America’s Shades of Blue jazz ensemble tours often. For more information, visit their website or follow them at @bandofmidamerica on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.