TULSA, MARCH 30, 2016 - There are many ways to serve in the U.S. Air Force. Some don uniforms on aircraft carriers and flight jumpsuits in jet cockpits. Everyone has a specialty.
At 7:00 p.m. on April 1, Dimensions In Blue, the big band jazz ensemble from the United States Air Force Band of the West, will present a free concert at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame
to kick off Jazz Appreciation Month.
The concert is part of a six-day tour that kicks off March 29 at the Capitol.
"Most folks who join the band are trained musicians and that is their best skill set and they want to do what they do best for the military. We don't necessarily recruit from within the Air Force," Music Director Jaime Parker said. "If somebody already in the Air Force has musical talent and wants to audition they can always audition, but we typically do all of our recruiting outside the Air Force."
Parker said soldiers of all kinds use their specific skills and talents to help the mission.
"We are all full-fledged active duty members of the Air Force. We go through basic training and all that, however, music is our primary duty. We do spend most of our time practicing, rehearsing and performing."
Air Force bands like Dimensions in Blue perform at military bases and functions around the world, bringing a slice of home to men and women stationed abroad.
"We deploy a band overseas wherever they're most needed," Parker said. "With everything that's going on now, (our bands) are usually deployed to the Middle East. They build bridges in a way that no other public affairs unit can: with music. They're a very useful tool over there."
While the military bands don't march into battle like the drummers and fife players of the Revolutionary War, they tour over 30,000 miles and entertain more than a million people every year.
"The troops are always glad to get some rest and relaxation and a slice of home," Parker said. "It's great for them to blow off some steam."
Though Parker said one of their primary missions for military bands is entertaining soldiers abroad, they also perform for the public. Like any other band, Dimensions in Blue has a tour manager and they have to book shows.
"For this tour in Oklahoma, we're working with the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and they booked all of the gigs for us around Oklahoma," Parker said.
Musically, Dimensions in Blue has kept the 1940s Glenn Miller Army Air Corps sound at the center of its musical focus. Drawing on 70 years of big band jazz heritage, the group performs in vintage "pinks and greens," as well as the modern "blues" of today's Air Force.
Their mission also includes telling the Air Force story and honoring local veterans and heroes.
"Most members of the public don't get to see what the hard working men and women of the Air Force do every day to protect this country," Parker said. "Our job is to tell that story. We're very motivated to get as many people to our performances as possible, because we will tell specific stories about people who have served and we highlight those people from the local community.
"It just reminds folks that no matter where you are, there could be someone who served this country standing right next to you on the street, or in line at the bank. You could be standing right next to somebody who made a huge sacrifice for this country."