FARMINGTON – On Sunday April 2, The United States Air Force band held a concert in Mt Blue High School’s gymnasium. Over a thousand local residents attended to witness the performance. The band, a part of the Military, is a premier musical organization that was first created in 1941. The US Air Force concerts are free events and any proceeds will go to veterans, scholarships, and food pantries.
The conductor, Colonel Don Schofield, kept the audience entertained and lively by giving meaningful backstories to the musical pieces, as well as incorporating some of the audience in the performance. Lieutenant Colonel Michael Hoerber was a conductor as well. Colonel Schofield even went as far as to bring up a young boy to the stage and have him conduct the song “Entry of the Gladiators” by Julius Fucik.
In order to make the concert possible, there was incredible effort behind the scenes. Farmington resident Shannon Smith, the host of the concert, was contacted in October 2022 to help out behind the scenes and make sure everything went according to plan. Smith was in charge of a previously scheduled U.S. Air Force concert scheduled for 2019, but it was canceled due to COVID-19.
The Farmington Rotary Club also helped host the event. The Rotary Club is a community civic group that donates back to the community by holding events and fundraisers to give to charities.
It was important to make the event as accessible as possible. Smith said that the morning of the concert she had a 92-year-old man call her stating that he did not have a ticket but he really wanted to attend the concert, and she made sure that he was able to be in attendance.
Smith also advertised the Air Force concert by posting the event on social media, as well as reaching out to nearby communities and sending out flyers, and sending information to local newspapers. She also made sure to have physical tickets as some people may not know how to access the online tickets, and she distributed around 300 paper tickets.
Smith stated that residents were excited that this band came to Farmington Maine and the event was well-received. The Government picked out the locations in advance and chose only four locations for the state of Maine. Smith stated it is one of the first large events they have held since COVID-19. To provide safety measures, Smith made sure to supply hand sanitizer and masks at each of the entrances for people to take advantage of.
“It has been a big team effort,” Smith said.
James Layfield, the marketing director for the band, stated that the process for finding the location starts a year in advance with finding local people to help begin the production for the concert. They then organize an advance team that comes out and views the space a couple months prior to the concert. After establishing a suitable venue, the work begins to get everything set up with marketing and setting up chairs and equipment before the concert.
Layfield’s role is marketing, primarily responsible for contacting people that can help get the word out, he makes sure to connect to the community and bring people into the concert. He stated they also do print, radio, and TV ads to reach an older demographic, alongside social media advertising.
Layfield explained that the organization has five branches of service, and there are 5 different regions that these bands circulate through the United states. For a few months at a time the Air Force band will play in the North east area, and then rotate so the Army band plays in this region. For this tour, the US Air Force band started out in New Jersey and made their way up to Maine.
“That’s really what we are here to do, is to celebrate the veterans, and recognize them for their service,” Layfield said.
Chris Davis, the AU coordinator who was in charge of setting up chairs as well as audio systems and other equipment, stated, “I think it’s great that you have an opportunity to bring forth what’s going to be a really great show, and then as Shannon’s done, bring in the veterans… you can see a range from little kids to older folks just to take in the whole National pride.”
Stephan Bunker, Post Commander of Farmington American Legion Post 28, served on the color guard for the concert. The color guard presented the flags at the beginning of the concert, after the introductions and at the conclusion they exited with a patriotic song. Bunker believes this concert has a huge impact on the community as so many residents were in attendance, coming together for patriotism.
The concert was a success, with many residents from around the area filling up the bleachers and seats.
Two vocalists, Technical Sgt. Stacey Holliday, and Technical Sgt. Michael Aiello, sang a few Opera pieces. Holliday sang selections from “Carmen”, Aiello sang “Italian Rhapsody”, along with a duet with both of them singing “Wheels of a Dream – Ragtime,” along with other musical performances. The concert had a variety of songs from composers all around the globe, as well as the staple Patriotic songs to recognize the veterans and service members. Master Sergeant Greta Asgeirsson played the harp for “Concerto for Harp, Op. 25. 3.”
Nearing the end of the show, the band played six songs recognizing each branch of the Armed Forces. Colonel Schofield asked that when the song for each branch of the Armed Forces began to play, that anyone who has previously or is currently serving in that branch to stand up and be recognized for their duty. The song ended with recognizing the Air Force.
Bringing a national band into rural Maine provided opportunities for families and individuals across the county to share in a unique and memorable experience.
For more information on the U.S. Air Force Band, please visit the website.