USAFE band tours Eastern Europe

by Senior Airman Greg Gallant
U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band

***image1***Sembach’s own U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band kicked off a successful eight-day, six-concert tour in three eastern European countries. The band travels more than 120 TDY days each year using music to support USAFE’s theatre mission. After detailed operational planning and musical preparation, the concert band embarked to Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia at the end of October. 

Nestled near the edge of Carpathian Mountains, on the Danube River, the Slovakian capital Bratislava was the first stop. Performing at the world-renowned Slovakian Radio Hall was an amazing experience. An evening highlight was Staff Sgt. Craig Bowman’s passionate rendition of Chick Correa’s jazz hit “Spain.” Sergeant Bowman’s voice, coupled with dazzling guitar solos provided by Staff Sgt. Jason Cale worked the audience into a frenzy. With thunderous applause from the crowd after each number, the tone was set for an exciting tour to come.

The next four concerts would be in Hungary. Known for having a rich heritage in the arts, the largely Hungarian audience at venues in Budapest, Veszprem and Pecs received the band with open arms. At two different venues in Hungary, the USAFE Band was joined on stage by the Hungarian Air Force Big Band. Sounds of Maj. Glen Miller and Benny Goodman wafted through the halls and delighted everyone within earshot. The standing room only crowd of civilians and Hungarian Army and Air Force cadets at the Budapest Military University were tapping toes and clapping hands all evening.

***image2***“The Hungarian Air Force Band embodied our partnership and symbolized the good will we desire with the future leaders of the Hungarian military,” said Maj.
Jeffrey Warner, commander and conductor of the USAFE Band. “Hearing the HUAF Band Commander Lt. Col. Katona speak about American music and how it shaped his life before their performance was touching.  His band used to transcribe music from American radio during communist rule when jazz and popular music was banned. He had courage because he believed in freedom.” 

Saxophonist Senior Airman Cody Brown wowed the audience in Pecs and brought them to their feet after his Tour de Force performance of the jazzy Gershwin Fantasy. Students from a local music school joined the USAFE Band for Souza’s Washington Post March.

This was one of many nights when playing a double ovation number was necessary for the wonderful audience. The last stop in Zagreb, Croatia, was a unique experience. Instead of a concert hall, the band performed on live television at the HRT/Radio Television Studio. The sizable live studio audience provided the energy to reach a high level of excitement for the performers. Roughly 60,000 Croatian people witnessed the band’s professionalism, discipline and artistry on live radio, with a television broadcast to follow in the future. 

 ***image3***“In addition to advancing the quality of life for Airmen and their families, our mission includes fostering positive mil-to-mil relations through music,” Major Warner said. “This is our contribution to theater security cooperation.”

The friendships forged between the USAFE Band and the civilian/military communities of Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia are a testament that music is truly the international language.