As a gift to the state of Florida, U.S. Air Force Band staff arranger Master Sergeant Tadd Russo put together an original march, “Okeechobee Pasodoble(e),” which references Florida’s history of Spanish settlement and its Native American roots -- and includes nods to songs he says should be well known to Floridians.
Playing it for the last time this weekend, the band will end its Florida tour with three concerts in the Tampa Bay area.
Colonel Don Schofield, commander and conductor, said their mission on these tours is to connect the Air Force to the communities they are visiting.
“When we're out meeting people, doing interviews, going to schools during the day, and performing concerts, many times that'll be the only time that a person will meet someone from the Air Force,” Schofield said. “So we humanize the Air Force image in uniform when we're out traveling.”
Students from Florida Southern College, Sickles High School, and Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School will join the Concert Band and Singing Sergeants on stage for the new march and “God Bless America.”
The Singing Sergeants will also be performing the national anthem at this Saturday’s Tampa Bay Lightning game versus the Nashville Predators.
Technical Sergeant Joey Velez, a band member who hails from Clearwater, got his undergraduate degree at Florida State University before moving to Michigan for his masters and joining the military.
He said he is looking forward to returning home and playing for family and friends.
“I'm really grateful that the Air Force gives me an opportunity to come perform back at home,” Velez said. “I'm especially excited to perform at the Straz Center in Tampa Bay, this Saturday, October 26. I grew up playing in that hall.”
According to Schofield, most band members were professional musicians and teachers before choosing to serve in the Air Force.
"We do all of the other professional military education that everyone else does. So we are airmen and we serve our country through music,” Schofield said. “It’s an opportunity to serve with a passion that you have.”
The USAF musicians also aim to bring a little bit of Washington, D.C. to the people of Florida through “The Presidential Medley,” another piece written specifically for this tour.
“The Air Force band has played for 14 presidents over the past 78 years and we're playing a song that each of the presidents really cherished,” Schofield said.
The USAF Concert Band and Singing Sergeants will end their Florida tour with three performances:
- Friday, October 25 7:00 p.m.
Branscomb Auditorium, Florida Southern College
- Saturday, October 26 7:00 p.m.
Carol Morsani Hall, Straz Center for the Performing Arts
- Sunday October 27 3:00 p.m.
Eleanor Dempsey Performing Arts Center, Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School