WILLIAMSBURG, Va. –
Members of the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band partnered with the College of William and Mary Wind Ensemble to perform a special "Side by Side" concert at Warhill High School in Williamsburg, Nov. 14.
More than 400 people gathered to watch more than 90 band members from the two bands as they played a variety of pieces, including works by Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and John Philip Sousa, as well as a musical salute to military veterans.
"Playing with a band of this size and skill level allows us to perform some pieces we otherwise wouldn't be able to do," said Ray Landon, USAF Heritage of America Band musical resources specialist. "Also, the pieces just sound better with 90 members, compared to a band of 30."
The special concert, which has been in the planning stages since spring, "was a great opportunity for the William and Mary Wind Ensemble to learn from the professional musicians in the USAF Heritage of America Band," according to Dr. Paul Bhasin, William and Mary College director of bands and assistant professor of music.
"I've been listening to recordings of the [USAF Heritage of America Band] for years and I've always really admired them," Bhasin said. "When I was approached to do something with them, I suggested a joint concert because I knew it was something the students would love and it would leave a lasting impression on them."
Bhasin and Landon agreed the concert allowed students in the Wind Ensemble to sit among professional musicians and play at a professional level.
"When our student band members come into contact with professionals, it opens doors for them and allows them to see things that are possible with the instrument they may not have known otherwise," Bhasin said.
According to Landon, the concert served as another way for the USAF Heritage of America Band to give back to the community.
"This concert allowed us to demonstrate the professionalism of the Air Force and also puts a face on the military for the students," Landon said. "It allowed us to show that we value these educational institutions, and that we are part of their community."
Bob Hunt, a Williamsburg resident, was among the many audience members.
"We've been following both bands for at least 30 years," Hunt said. "Tonight's performance was absolutely wonderful, and I hope that they do it again in the future."
With the concert a success, Bhasin and Landon are looking toward the future.
"We couldn't have picked a better musical partner for this performance," Bhasin said. "The Heritage of America Band has displayed nothing but professionalism since the start, and we are already talking about a future concert with them."
Landon echoed Bhasin's sentiment, and said the Heritage of America Band hopes to work with the school band again in the future.
"It was a pleasure to partner with these talented students and share the stage with them in some fantastic music-making," Landon said.