A full house cheered as The United States Air Force Concert Band and Singing Sergeants took to the stage of the Poway Center for the Performing Arts Friday night as part of its 2012 “Airpower” tour of California and Arizona.
The Concert Band and Singing Sergeants filled the air with various musical arrangements for about two hours, not a second off beat or a single note out of tune.
Master Sgt. Jay Heltzer greeted the audience, saying the groups, which are made up of various Air Force musicians, “represent the skill, caliber and excellence in all we do.”
Conducted by Col. Larry H. Lang, the band opened the night with “Equipoise,” powered by bold attacks from the brass section laid over flowing woodwinds. Seamless transitions led from punchy bass lines to a gently vibrato oboe solo, guided by somber pacing of clarinets, baritones and cellos.
Nine students from the Poway High School Wind Symphony graced the stage to perform the march-style “Eagle Squadron” alongside the Air Force musicians. The piece was conducted by PHS Music Director Mike Cook.
For Wind Symphony alto saxophonist and PHS senior Justin Zakrajsek, performing with the Air Force Concert Band was an experience unlike any other.
“I was excited because of all the talent around me, which inspired me to play even better,” Zakrajsek said.
The night featured solo performances from numerous Air Force men and women, including Technical Sgt. Megan Neal’s piping piccolo and Technical Sgt. Ben Park’s rich baritone voice.
Audience members couldn't help but sing along as the men and women of the Singing Sergeants took to the stage for “A Broadway Salute!” The arrangement included popular tunes from “The Wizard of Oz” and “Wicked.”
The Singing Sergeants welcomed the PHS Die Lieders and Director Nancy Gray onstage for “God Bless America,” with the audience heartily singing along during the chorus.
Senior Master Sgt. Angela Burns, the primary enlisted leader of the Singing Sergeants, said the enthusiasm from audience members contributed to the success of the night.
“We feed off of the audience,” she said. “We felt so energized.”
Burns, part of the Singing Sergeants for nearly 19 years, commended PHS for its emphasis on music education.
“It’s such an honor to work with students that are fostering such a great program,” Burns said.
The night wouldn't have been complete without a tribute to fellow service people, and for the last number of the evening, the Concert Band and Singing Sergeants came together to perform a patriotic medley recognizing audience members from all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
As the event came to its close, members of the band and chorus took their final bows, with the PCPA audience cheering as loudly as it had all night.
The “Airpower!” tour continues through Oct. 25, with the final performances in California taking place tonight at 7 p.m. in Escondido and Sunday at 3 p.m. in El Centro. More information on free tickets and future performances is available online.