News: American Corner in Naryn welcomes AFCENT Band Top Flight
Story by Master Sgt. Jason Vaught
NARYN PROVINCE, Kyrgyzstan – Music is a powerful tool and helps reduce international language barriers. A recent U.S. Embassy initiative helped connect Kyrgyz Republic secondary school students and staff with American service members and musicians from the U.S. Air Forces Central Band, Top Flight, during an English language and music exchange at the American Corner in Naryn Province, Kyrgyzstan, Sept. 27, 2012.
The American Corner opened their doors Sept. 12 to the local students of Naryn and the visit from the airmen was their first English language exchange. The band, who performs a mix of rock, pop and country to enhance morale for deployed service members throughout Southwest Asia, is no stranger to sharing its music with international audiences.
Janar Abdrazakov, who is a music teacher and komuz player, shared his talents with the members of Top Flight. Afterward, Staff Sgt. Gregory Lacy was asked to also play the komuz and was greeted with cheers from the students when he was able to replay the song played by Abdrazakov.
“This was an extremely rewarding experience in sharing music with Mr. Abdrazakov,” said Lacy, the Top Flight lead guitarist who is deployed from Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, and a native of Houston. “Music has the ability to connect us culturally; to play a Kyrgyz song on the guitar for the students will go a long way in developing future relationships.”
Children of the American Corner program were interested in their visitors from America. Questions ranged from where the band members were from in the States to how long the band had been playing together.
However, a musical exchange would not be complete without a request to sing a song.
Tech. Sgt. Christin Foley, Top Flight lead singer, was requested by the students to sing the U.S. national anthem a capella.
“I was nervous to perform in front of the students, I usually have time to warm up prior to a show,” said Foley, who is also stationed in San Antonio and calls Cleveland home.
Eager to show their patriotism, the students came together and treated the band to the Krygyz Republic national anthem.
“I always find it interesting when you are in a foreign country, music has a way to connect us,” she said. “It’s amazing how the students know all the words to the popular songs we sing.”
Foley, who is on her second tour to Kyrgyzstan, found this trip to be one of the best.
"In 2009, we were only able to visit the Transit Center at Manas and the city of Bishkek. This trip has given us a great opportunity to meet and connect with more children through the music we play," she said.
Erikina Zheenbekova, American Corner in Naryn coordinator, helped bring the Top Flight members and Kyrgyz students together.
“It was very wonderful for the group to visit our American Corner,” said Zheenbekova. “Today was the first time we have live American music in Naryn; it is important for our future.
According to the U.S. Embassy website, the American Corner program has reached seven cities across Kyrgyzstan. Locations in Jalalabat, Batken, Talas, Kant, Karakol and Bishkek respectively help provide access to reference materials, books, English as a second language resources, CDs, videotapes and DVDs.
American Corners are open to all citizens who are interested in learning more about the U.S. The Corners hold a variety of programs such as English Language Club, Movie Night, Conversation Classes, holiday celebrations, lectures by guest speakers, and Fulbright fellows.
For more information on the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek American Corner program, visit http://bishkek.usembassy.gov/amcorners.html