BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- A goal of any band is to connect with their audience. After an appearance at the Kurenkeyev College of Music, the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band 'Total Force' may have made a connection that will last long after their visit.
The AFCENT Band recent visit to the college was part of a two-week outreach tour in Kyrgyzstan. The band not only performed, but also conducted master classes with the students. The master classes offered included voice, piano, clarinet, saxophone, and drums.
The school's director, Tentimish Murataliev, welcomed the opportunity to expose his students to various styles of music and artists.
"Our institution not only teaches academic instruments, singing and Kyrgyz traditional music, but music from around the world. The master classes conducted with the AFCENT band is very useful for both our students and professors. The interaction with professional musicians is a great lesson for them and the more of such events for our students the better," said Murataliev.
The Kurenkeyev College of Music is one of three music colleges in Kyrgyzstan. There are approximately 235 students enrolled in the college ranging in age from 15 to 23 years old. Only 70 applicants are accepted to this four-year institution each year. After graduation, students vie for selection to the National Conservatory of Music, a competitive five-year program for aspiring professional musicians.
Performing in front of professional musicians can be intimidating. Some students were a little hesitant to display their talents to the band. One student who did volunteer was Kanybek; a second-year voice major who sang the Frank Sinatra standard "Strangers in the Night."
"I was kind of nervous when I first started to perform, but I felt better after I received instruction and advice," he said.
His master class instructor, Tech. Sgt. Frances Kness, lead vocalist, was impressed with his voice.
"I didn't know what to expect," she said. They're pretty good, I just offered them tips on how to perform in front of an audience, she said.
These tips had an immediate impact on Kanybek.
"The most important thing I learned from the master class was the way you need to move while performing," said Kanybek. "One technique I learned is to pick a girl out of the crowd and imagine that I'm singing the song to her. This was a very useful tip that I will use in the future."
The master classes were as enjoyable for the band as they were for the students. Staff Sgt. Josh Byrd, lead guitar and vocalist, also led a master class.
"I thought this was really neat. This was one of the coolest events we've done," said Byrd.
Byrd focused his time with the students on performance techniques, a consistent theme of coaching from most of the band members.
"It's really interesting; most young players regardless of where they are from usually have the same technical issues. They are so worried about playing the right note that they don't emote. When they reach a certain level of confidence they will stop thinking about getting the notes right and just perform," said Byrd.
After the classes, the band took to the stage and demonstrated the same techniques they discussed with the students earlier. Their hour-long performance covered the genres of rock, pop and country.
For an institution where classical is the primary music of instruction, students expressed a great appreciation for the American sound.
"I enjoyed [the concert] very much. Every time an American band comes to our school I try not to miss it. I like the American style of music," said Begaim Kydyralieva, a third-year student. "It was very interesting and useful to me to learn how we need to feel while performing on stage."
Following the concert, Kurenkeyev students performed traditional Kyrgyz music for the band.
The music and ideas shared between the band and students may have connected them beyond the stage or the classroom.
"I think their contribution to our students have been great. Music is very sacred, it's a gift, and with music you don't need translators," said Murataliev May the friendship between our musicians grow.