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SSgt Nikiforoff instructs student from Campolindo HS
US Air Force Band of the Golden West guitarist Staff Sgt Alex Nikiforoff demonstrates a passage to Grayson Kirtland, a student from Campolindo High School. Music students from Campolindo High School attended a jazz clinic at Travis Air Force Base presented by The Commanders Jazz Ensemble on 27 March
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Jazz Band Inspires Students

Posted 4/10/2012   Updated 4/10/2012 Email story   Print story


by MSgt Sherry Burt
U. S. Air Force Band of the Golden West

4/10/2012 - Travis Air Force Base, CA -- The Commanders Jazz Band of the USAF Band of the Golden West conducted an educational outreach clinic with students on March 27th at Travis. Working with students provides a way for band members to encourage valuable life skills such as perseverance, self-expression and discipline. In addition, the students develop a greater appreciation for the traditions of military music to boost morale, celebrate patriotism and foster goodwill. Master Sgt. Jim Butler, The Commanders' band leader and alto saxophonist, led a jazz clinic with 18 students forming two jazz bands from the music program of Campolindo High School in Moraga. As the students filed into the Travis band building that morning, they were greeted by the active duty musicians of The Commanders, an 18-piece ensemble in the tradition of American big bands.
"We were absolutely honored to have the opportunity to interact with and make a positive impact upon some of our community's outstanding students," Butler said.
First, The Commanders performed several upbeat selections, encouraging the high school musicians to stand among the ensemble and submerge themselves in the big band sounds. Next, the students had the opportunity to play for the professional bandsmen who provided encouragement and instruction.
Airman 1st Class Isaac Lamar, band tenor saxophonist, offered pointers on "telling a story" through an improvised solo. Senior Airman Joe Whitt, The Commanders' bass player, addressed the rhythm section suggesting trust and teamwork as invaluable tools for music making. After coaching each of the Campolindo jazz bands, the Airmen musicians provided individualized instruction by instrument, allowing the students to ask questions and interact closely with the bandsmen.
With 40 years of experience as a music educator, Mr. Harvey Benstein has dedicated the last 15 years of his career to teaching the aspiring musicians at Campolindo High School.
"[It was] a unique and wonderful experience for our students to hear, learn and be coached by some of the best musicians in the business," he said. "My students were blown away by the sound, education and musicianship of the Air Force Band--an awesome and memorable day."
The Commanders Jazz Band is one of six performing groups of the larger U. S. Air Force Band of the Golden West located at Travis Air Force Base. Featured at the 2011 Monterey Jazz Festival, The Commanders will perform at the Festival again this September as part of a star-studded line-up including Tony Bennett and Pat Metheny.
"Overall it was an amazing day watching the student's excitement to be on an AF base engaged with some of our Air Force professionals," states the Band of the Golden West Commander, Captain Haley Armstrong. "For most of them it was their first time on a base and their first time working with anyone in the military; it really opened their eyes to who we are here at Travis behind the front gate."
Other upcoming events and additional information are available at the band's website:

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