News: Heritage of America Band spreads spirit, song in free holiday concerts
Story by Staff Sgt. Ashley Hawkins
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The sounds of the season resonated throughout Christopher Newport University’s Ferguson Center for the Arts Dec. 2-4 as the Air Force Heritage of America Band delighted audiences with Christmas classics and seasonal standards in the fifth annual installment of their “An American Yuletide: Sounds and Traditions” concert series.
The free shows, which attracted nearly 1,400 guests per night, showcased the talents of 38 of the band’s airmen performing in both large and small groups. The group’s set list included holiday favorites, including “Frosty the Snowman,” “Oh, Hanukkah,” and “Santa Claus is Coming.”
According to 2nd Lt. Rafael Toro-Quinones, the band’s commander, the intricate productions required six months of preparation to iron out logistics and musical programming. The band dedicated seven rehearsals to fine tune the set list for each performance.
“Our idea was to bring holiday favorites that are heard in our country throughout the holiday season,” Toro-Quinones said. “We wanted to refresh the sounds, so we performed new arrangements in addition to the classics.”
Toro-Quinones said the group received a warm welcome and praise for their performances.
“Audiences are always eager to be able to shake our hands and thank us for the service we provide to our nation, while representing the men and women of the Air Force,” he said. “The most common feedback we’ve received is that this year’s holiday performance has been one of the best they have seen and heard so far by our unit.”
Raymond Landon, the band’s director of operations, called the performances “truly memorable,” citing the visual décor and musicianship the band put forth.
“As an Air Force retiree and a former enlisted member of the Heritage of America Band, I was amazed and inspired by this year’s holiday event,” he said. “I was especially proud of the new and very talented airmen who were showcased, and was assured that the future of the Heritage of America Band, as well as the Air Force, is very bright indeed.”
Toro-Quinones thanked audience members for coming out to see the band’s hard work on display and noting the band’s appreciation of their role as stewards of the Air Force.
“It is an incredible honor to play for our local audiences. We bring to them the Air Force story while we thank the community that supports us,” he remarked. “We represent every airman in the Air Force and speak on their behalf about the great work that occurs every day at every hour.”
Air Force bands organize, train and deploy professional airman musicians, harnessing the power of music to inspire immediate, positive and long-lasting impressions of the Air Force and the United States of America in the hearts and minds of audiences worldwide. The Heritage of America Band has deployed three bands in the past three years; "Heritage Aire Celtic Ensemble" in 2007, the rock band "Blue Aces" in the spring of 2009, and most recently, "Vector" in the spring of 2010.