While the Langley Winds, the woodwind and percussion ensemble of the United State Air Force, performs all of the patriotic tunes you would expect from the official performers of the military, the group also reaches beyond U.S. borders in their search for music to play, taking their inspiration both from overseas performers and a galaxy far, far away.
Tuesday, March 15, the band will perform a free concert for the community at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster. Tech Sgt. Jesse Schartz, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Winds, said it's important to the group to bring audiences a mixture of the respectful pieces they may expect to hear from a military band, with eclectic choices that excite musicians and audience alike.
"In this particular program, we've got a tribute to David Bowie, where we play three David Bowie tunes together. It's fun to play and the audience gets excited by it," Schartz said. "We also play the cantina band song from 'Star Wars' that's a lot of fun for everybody."
The Langley Winds is an ensemble of the larger Heritage of America Air Force Band, currently celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The Heritage of America Band consists of Air Force members who take up instruments to perform for both civilian and military audiences throughout the country. The group was created by an order of the Secretary of War in 1941, housed in Barksdale Field, Louisiana. In 1946, they moved their home base to Langley, Virginia, where they reside today.
The Langley Winds came together just a year and a half ago, combining the larger band's woodwind quartet with clarinet and percussion performers. The group is one of six outfits under the Heritage of America Band, the others being the concert band, Rhythm in Blue jazz ensemble, Heritage Brass, Full Spectrum and Blue Aces.
The 10 members of the Langley Winds are all trained, professional musicians, with most members having earned a bachelor's degree in music, and a few who have earned their doctorates. In addition to his work with the Langley Winds, Schartz has performed with the North Arkansas, Fort Smith, Springfield, Columbus and Virginia symphonies.
Schartz said the past year and a half has been spent building the group's repertoire and perfecting their onstage chemistry. He said the group has finally come into their own and is ready to show off to the world.
"You can expect a little something for everybody at a show of ours," Schartz said. "We're a unique, diverse ensemble who likes to innovate as well as perform a lot of traditional songs."
In addition to the catalog pieces, the group commissions original songs and arrangements from artists like Valerie Coleman-Page, Jeff Scott and Cully Joyce. The group's most recent composition is "Grooveburst" by Brian DuFord, who has written pieces for Grammy-nominated groups like the Imani Winds and Borealis Wind Quintet.
At the end of the performance, the Langley Winds embrace national history by performing the service songs of all five branches of the military. Schartz said a major component of the group is honoring the service of military members and telling story of what it's like to be in the Air Force, from sharing their experiences to telling the stories of their colleagues.
"Through our music, we want to represent the excellence of the Air Force," Schartz said. "Our ability is representative of the quality of work everyone does in their other career fields and the hard work they do that the public can't see every day. We just want to reflect that great work."