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CHICAGO -- The U.S. Air Force Premier Concert Band performed three heart-pounding concerts for musicians, mentors and fans gathered from across the world, Dec. 19, here at the 66th Annual Midwest Clinic.
The U.S. Air Force Band became the talk of the conference on opening day following their morning performance featuring several ensembles to include the Emmy-nominated Air Force Strings and a percussion piece that involved crowd participation.
"This is one of the most amazing bands in the United States and in the world," said Christopher Poncin, high school band director in the state of Washington. "They set the bar higher and higher every time I see them perform. We are fortunate and blessed here, at the Midwest Clinic, to see and experience an ensemble with such great conductors."
Every six years the USAF Band has the opportunity to perform as they rotate the experience with fellow military premier bands from each military branch stationed in Washington, D.C.
The USAF Band Clarinetist Tech. Sgt. Kristin King, a native of Chicago, performed a solo for thousands in attendance to enjoy.
"(During this conference) I've been able to perform for my high school band director in the audience as well as my parents, grandpa and several students that I've taught here in Chicago which was really special for me," King said. "It's a dream job to play alongside so many other wonderful professional musicians for amazing audiences both here, Washington, D.C., and across the country; it is just a fantastic experience."
Each unique performance, built around this year's clinic theme "Honoring our Mentors," invited two guest conductors to the stage.
Retired Col. Arnald Gabriel, the first conductor of the USAF Premier Band in 1964, and Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, personal mentor to current USAF Premier Band Commander and Conductor Col. Larry Lang both shared the baton with Lang during several of the musical pieces.
"It's really an honor and privilege to stand in front of these musicians yet again," said Gabriel who retired from the USAF in 1985. "The spirit, musicianship and enthusiasm -- it's a tribute to what we're doing in our universities across the nation."
After receiving the Midwest Clinic Medal of Honor during the final performance, Gabriel talked about how well the bands have been playing.
"The teaching is better than ever so the bands, graduates and Airmen are also better than ever," he said.
Following buzz from the band's morning performance at the Midwest Clinic, fellow musicians, friends, family, fans and mentors flocked to the two evening performances.
"This is a great opportunity for the leaders in music education as well as those who are looking to be future leaders in music education to see how well the Air Force Band does business," said 1st Lt. Peter Folliard, USAF Premier Band conductor.
The U.S. Air Force Band mission is to honor those who have served, inspire American citizens to heightened patriotism and service, and positively impact the global community on behalf of the U.S. Air Force and the United States of America.
"What a great way to end the night," said Poncin, who attended two of the band's three performances. "Thank you so much for everything you guys are doing; keep up the good work."