U.S. Air Force Academy Band To Perform Holly & Ivy Concerts In December
Interview by Marsha Barancik, Nov. 20, 2017
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Next month’s 63rd annual Holly & Ivy concert series recasts traditional holiday favorites in separate shows across Colorado. Lt Col Daniel Price, Commander and Conductor of the U.S. Air Force Academy Band, shares how the power of music reinforces the Air Force’s mission.
MB: What is unique about this year’s Holly & Ivy concerts?
Price: This year we’re tracing the history of the celebration of the holidays in popular culture — including a Broadway adaption of Charles Dickens’ 1843 “A Christmas Carol” and selections from the “Nutcracker Ballet,” written in 1892. We’ll also perform selections from black and white movies released in the 1940s and 50s, such as Bob Hope’s “Lemon Drop Kid,” followed by highlights from several animated holiday specials such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965). Later in the concert we’ll remember the famous 1914 Christmas Truce, when French, German and British troops on the Western Front spontaneously declared a moment of peace on Christmas Eve and sang “Silent Night” from trenches — and then share Hometown Greeting videos from Coloradans who are currently deployed. Our goal is to encourage the audience to remember not only those who are deployed and spending the holidays away from their families so that we can safely celebrate with ours, but those who have given their lives to their country.
MB: How is performing under the U.S. Air Force Academy brand a unique military service?
Price: Rendering honor when honor is due is fundamental to life in the military, and we use music to render that honor. When Airmen hear the first notes of “The Star Spangled Banner”, we stand at attention and salute the flag. When we hear “Ruffles and Flourishes” and the “General’s March” played during parades, we stand at attention and salute the presiding officer. When we hear the first note of “Taps” at a graveside, we stand at attention and salute the one who has given their lives in service of our country. So when a military band performs, it helps everyone — from Airmen and their families to the public — participate in the rendering of honor.
MB: How is the band organized?
Price: To assist with appropriately honoring our flag, our heroes, our leaders and our country, we recruit some of the most talented musicians in the country into the Air Force Band program. The band has 58 professional musicians organized into a total of nine performing groups; each musician is a member of at least two of them. While everyone plays a role in the marching band, we then have full-time rock and country bands, and a concert band consisting of about 45 Airmen. On alternating months, the concert band breaks down into about six smaller groups, known, for example, as the Falconaires Big Band and the Rockies Clarinet Quartet. Our band has three significant missions. First, we support the U.S. Air Force Academy in their mission to train Leaders of Character to be Lieutenants in our military. Second, we support headquarters Air Force by touring throughout seven states in the mountain region, helping connect America to its Air Force. Third, we deploy to the warfront to support Airmen morale and build international relationships.
MB: Describe the broader community impact of the Academy band.
Price: Because of the excellence of our Airman-musicians and the power of music, we also help inform the public of the Air Force’s mission and form lasting connections to those wearing the Air Force uniform. In that same fashion — when we perform overseas as part of an international delegation — we help build bridges between countries. We use music to engage the widest variety of audiences, from those who do not naturally appreciate art, to those who are natural music lovers. Veterans and grandparents who attend our public performances are valuable in that they are big influencers in their extended families, encouraging family members to serve their country. We use music to speak a truth into their lives — to connect generations and deepen patriotism. Just as a toe-tapping march or a powerful rock ballad have the ability to lift spirits, music has the power to grab hold of our humanity, both downrange and here at home. There is a genre for everyone, at any age.
MB: When do you know a performance is really resonating?
Price: When we can break up a 1,000-yard stare. An Airman once stated after an Air Force band performance, “You made me forget for 45 minutes that I am in Afghanistan.” The Air Force brand has a powerful effect on the public, but people often see just uniforms and not the people in them. The music we make bonds people with a shared experience. Plus they have a great time at our performances.