Every day is Veterans Day for the U.S. Army Field Band, says its saxophone section leader, Master Sgt. Brian Sacawa, a 14-year member of the concert world's best of the best.
"And that feeling is only heightened when we're playing a concert around that day," he adds.
"Listen, every night we play, we are celebrating veterans. But having it come near that day just kind of drives home our message that's been a part of every single concert I've been a part of for 14 years, and, I'm sure, as it has been since the band was formed in 1946."
Those lucky enough to have claimed a ticket for Monday night's long-sold-out concert in the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts will get a taste of the heightened celebration, coming as it will just 48 hours after Veterans Day 2017.
Those who missed out are welcome to show up in person -- no waiting list is being kept -- to score any unclaimed tickets. They will be released 10 minutes before curtain time, at 7:20 p.m.
Performing, both separately and together, on the BCPA stage will be the Army Field Band's 65-member Concert Band and 29-member Soldiers Choir in their first Twin Cities showing since a 2015 concert on the Illinois State University campus.
Sacawa, a native of Schenectady N.Y., first took up the saxophone at age 8, discovering from then on that his life would be in music ... ultimately, as a front-line performer, not a teacher.
A magazine article he came across detailing how military bands in Washington, D.C., are considered the premier bands for each of the branches of service was a life-changer.
"From that point on, that's what I wanted to do ... it just seemed like an amazing opportunity to play an instrument, serve our country and connect with people through the medium of music," Sacawa says.
Make that lucky, talented Brian.
"After my senior year in college, there was a vacancy in the Army Field Band ... I took the audition ... and I won the position."
As he notes, "the positions in these D.C. military bands are highly coveted, so it gets very competitive when there's a job opening."
There's a responsibility, and privilege, that goes with the territory, notes Sacawa.
"Over the years, the D.C. military bands have developed a reputation for being the best of the best. They only hire the best of the best, and our job becomes being the public representatives for the Army all over the country."
The result, he says, is a congregation of "world-class performers who are also really fantastic people."
As the military's musical ambassadors who are out and about across an American landscape that lately seems increasingly fragmented, Sacawa and his fellow musicians are there to engage.
"We get to go to areas of the country where the Army isn't a presence and connect with Americans through music that shows the professional excellence of everyone in the military.
"Not only are we playing for the people, we are out shaking hands and talking to people ... listening to veterans, and making them feel good about their service to our country."
The highlight of every performance, says Sacawa, comes at the point in the concert when service members and their friends and families are invited to stand and be honored for their contributions.
"It's always so inspiring to look out from the stage and see all the people standing up and being recognized ... to see the pride in their faces," he adds.
"In particular," he adds, "the Vietnam veterans, who tells us how, when the came back from service, they were spit upon by their country ... that didn't look on them favorably until the moment we played the songs and asked them to stand up. They tell us they've never felt that sense of pride for their military service."
That, adds Sacawa, "is what makes you realize that you are doing something extremely meaningful and valuable for this nation." ___
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