Composing a Masterpiece

by Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn Rich
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Hundreds of military members from seven countries prepared for weeks. The venue was set and tickets sold.

Bands from all over Europe teamed up for the biennial NATO Music Festival, which took place June 11 at the Fritz-Walter stadium in Kaiserslautern. 

“This is a big deal. This only happens in this area once every other year, and there are bands from all over Europe that will be participating,” said Master Sgt. Steve Schaughency, horn player and noncommissioned officer in charge of publicity for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band.

The participating bands presented their nation’s culture as well as individual musical styles. Among those that performed are The Upper Austria Military Band, the Royal Naval Band from Belgium, the Latvian National Armed Forces Band from Riga, the Koszalin Military Band from Poland, the military ensemble from Luxembourg, which was accompanied by their special guest star Joy Fleming. Germany was represented by the Naval Band Baltic Sea and a drill formation from the Guards Battalion.

The U.S. was represented by the USAFE Band. The band practiced nonstop for weeks to ensure that everyone was on the same sheet of music and each move was precise to accompany their music, Sergeant Schaughency said.

This year marked the 22nd anniversary of the NATO Music Festival. Since 1965, the U.S. and their regional and NATO allies have presented this unique celebration. The tradition also represented the ties between the people in the region and the North Atlantic Alliance.

To ensure there was a complete ensemble for the performance, the USAFE Band needed reinforcements; 20 musicians from three stateside bases were called in to augment positions. Members from the U.S. Band of Liberty, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.; U.S. Air Force Academy Band, Peterson AFB, Colo.: and the Band of the West, Lackland AFB, Texas, joined the USAFE Band to complete the 53-person group. 

“This is my first time to Germany and the first NATO Fest that I have participated in,” said Airman 1st Class Adam Porter. Airman Porter, a tuba player with 23 years of experience in his craft, was augmented to the USAFE Band from the U.S. Band of Liberty. “The other band members are great and the music is great, it has been awesome.”

For others, the opportunity was a homecoming. Master Sgt. Andrew Held, a seasoned trumpet player with more than 30 years of experience, also joined the USAFE Band from the U.S. Band of Liberty.

“I was stationed (in Germany) for more than 15 years in my career, and this will be my eighth NATO Fest,” Sergeant Held said. “When I was given the opportunity to come back, I jumped at it. It has been like coming home again.”

Once the bands came together, they had the task of making it harmonize.
Putting on field shows are difficult to organize. It becomes a feat of getting more than 50 people not only to play the music selection from memory, but to move in unison to the choreography. 

“We have changed the show so much, that we had to completely redo the drill portion from the 2008 show,” said Maj. Matthew Henry, USAFE Band commander and veteran of the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corp. from Chicago. “It has taken a lot of tweaking and countless hours of organization.”

After the plan was down, it was time to get all the musicians prepared for the endeavor, Major Henry said.

After the weeks of tedious practicing and hours of drills, the members of the band said they knew it would all be worth it in the end.

“We have put a lot into this show, and I think that it’s evident to the audience,” Major Henry said. “Even though we are one of the smallest groups out there, we are among the best.”