Band in Blue

Commanders Jazz Ensemble, United States Air Force Band of the Golden West, returns to the Aquarius, delivering a program filled with American big band favorites.
The group will be performing a free concert Thursday, Feb. 21 (3 p.m.). Tickets are available at the ace/Play Center. Limit two tickets per person, while they last.
The Commanders, a recently revived ensemble, carry on the musical tradition of the big band era, while also including lively patriotic tunes, bringing the music to audiences all over the West Coast and desert Southwest.
“A component of the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West, The Commanders Jazz Ensemble carries on the American musical tradition of the great big bands, yet offers a lot beyond the big band sound,” said tour manager Staff Sgt. Nicholas J. Ciardelli, USAF, who is also the assistant director of operations, manning assist coordinator. He also plays a mean trumpet.
“This energetic group of highly trained professional musicians, formed from 20 active-duty Airmen, under the direction of Master Sgt. Ricky Sweum, our group leader, delivers the full gamut of jazz music – traditional jazz, cool, bop, swing, Broadway favorites and patriotic music,” he added.
“The members of the Commanders are all professional Air Force musicians working in support of Air Force and Air Mobility Command official military recruiting and community relations objectives,” he said.
Aquarius show selections may include favorites from Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie, delivered by the group’s enchanting vocalist, Senior Airman Stephanie Allen.
Their renditions of hot jazz feature rousing improvised solos from every instrument in the group. This is an ensemble capable of delivering a truly unique combination of entertainment.
“As far as a popular signature piece — we will do a tribute section of music to the Glenn Miller Orchestra, which is what our group is based on,” Ciardelli said. “And we have two alumni in the group, our lead alto saxophonest Tech. Sgt. Nathan Heald and myself, on lead trumpet.
“These performances are family-friendly and open to the public,” he added. “The ensemble consists of full-time professional Airmen who are employed to be musicians. Their mission is two-pronged — stateside they tour the western United States, going into communities and building partnerships and relationships with community leaders as the face of the Air Force and Air Mobility Command. They are part of the Air Force public affairs.
The other half is to support deployed American war fighters regardless of their branch of service. They travel to perform for those folks. They also perform on naval ships and sail literally around the world providing music in communities from South America to Asia.
Headquartered at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, the Band of the Golden West has performed for gubernatorial inaugurations, at sporting events such as NFL football games and NASCAR races and were the step-off band for three Tournament of Roses Parades in Pasadena.
In 2004, they were honored to support the interment ceremony of President Ronald Reagan in Simi Valley, California. More recent events include featured performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony.
The jazz ensemble is just one of many performing groups under the Golden West umbrella of musicians — the jazz band, concert band, a woodwind quintet, a brass quintet, a clarinet quartet, a rock band and a Celtic folk rock ensemble.
So how do you become a member of such a prestigious and select group? Well, first you have to enlist in the Air Force. Then you have to audition prior to induction. But no special treatment comes next because every member has to go through basic training before being assigned to the band’s duty station. Then it’s practice, practice, practice before you can hit the road delivering concerts like the one scheduled for the Aquarius.
In addition to enjoyable community concerts and jazz festivals, the group visits colleges and schools throughout the region, inspiring future generations of musicians and connecting with youth.
More recent events include featured performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and Pentatonix.
The United States Air Force Band of the Golden West received its current name on May 1, 1997. However, the band’s history dates back to 1941 and throughout the intervening decades it was known as “15th Air Force Band of the Golden West,” “Air Mobility Command Band of the Golden West,” “America’s Band in Blue” and “504th Air Force Band of the Golden Gate.”
This organization continues to maintain its rich heritage of musical excellence and outstanding Air Force professionalism, never losing sight of their vision — enriching the human spirit through musicianship and patriotism.


The Pavilion at the Aquarius

Thursday, Feb. 21 (3 p.m.)

Free; see ace/Play Center