Air Force Band Ready for Inauguration
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md., Jan. 14, 2005 After a 22-year Air Force music career, Col. Dennis Layendecker finally will march in the biggest parade of his life Jan. 20 as he prepares to lead the 99-piece Air Force Band down Pennsylvania Avenue during the president's inauguration parade.
Air Force Band bass drummer Senior Master Sgt. Patrick
Shrieves practices with fellow band members at Andrews Air Force Base on Jan.
13. A 20-year veteran, Shrieves has played at five presidential inaugurals, and
this year's event may be his final parade, as he is contemplating retirement.
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
As the band rehearsed here Jan. 13 for the big event, the commander and music director for the United States Air Force Band based at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., refrained from showing any emotion, even though inside he probably is as excited as a kid at Disney World. For military musicians, this event arguably is bigger than marching in the Rose Bowl Parade or playing at halftime at the Super Bowl.
"Obviously I'm pretty excited about it," he said behind a slight grin. "We're pretty excited to be here and looking forward to saluting our president as we go by, our commander in chief."
Practicing at Andrews this week for the big event, Layendecker was all business. With the band huddled around him, he shouted that he wanted the band members to make their instruments "sing" as they march past the president.
"Instruments can sing," he explained, with emphasis on the word "can."
"Whether we sing with our voice, or we're singing through the horn, we indeed sing."
"I asked the (band members) to think about the lyrics of the Air Force Song as they march past and salute our commander in chief," Layendecker said, "and it will make a difference in the way they play."
"The Air Force Song," will be one of three selections the band will play along the 1.6-mile parade route that begins at 4th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and goes past the White House. The band also will play John Phillip Sousa's "The Washington Post March," and Don Keller's "Trombones Triumphant." The four other service bands also will play in the parade.
As the band practiced its march up and down the tarmac on a spring-like day, the revving of C-17 jet transport engines and the "chopping" of helicopter rotors drowned out the music. But the band played on, never missing a beat, maintaining its stride and precision. Like a drill sergeant closely monitoring new recruits, Master Sgt. Kent Baker marched outside the formation, keeping a close eye on every step.
"I have to make sure they keep their alignment and technique," he said. "I want to make sure they eliminate as much movement while playing as possible."
The band made everything seem routine as it went through its paces. Its members have been practicing for the inauguration since December, learning all the songs from memory and going over the fundamentals of marching while playing. They will do a final full-dress rehearsal Jan. 16 in downtown Washington.
Many of the band's musicians marched in the last presidential inauguration parade. Still, this year's performance will be anything but routine, Layendecker pointed out.
"I don't think that any performance we do is 'routine,'" he explained. "I would say that this particular event is certainly one of those special ones that comes up on our scope, but we treat it with the same professionalism we do with any performance."
This year's inauguration will be a special one for the band's bass drummer, Senior Master Sgt. Patrick Shrieves. During his 20-year military career, the Freehold, N.J., native has played at five of them, going back to when the president's father, George H.W. Bush, took office. Shrieves is contemplating retirement, so this inaugural could be his last. "I'm definitely going to be playing as loud, and as strong, and as proud as I can," he said.
The big drum's paint is scuffed quite a bit from years of constant pounding. Shrieves said he will give it a touch-up before the parade. "For the show, we're going to make sure everything looks its absolute best," he promised.
Shrieves' happiness is shared by all but one member of the band. Marching far behind the group at practice, Master Sgt. Mary Beth George follows along with the music although the notes from her alto sax are barely heard in the chorus of instruments.
George likely will not play in the parade; she is recovering from the flu. She said missing out on the parade will be a big disappointment because "playing for the president is very exciting. He's our biggest customer." It will be the second time the University of Buffalo music graduate has missed playing for the president. She was pregnant when President Clinton took office in 1996.
To most onlookers, the band will pass by in a blur of activity that day, but Chief Master Sgt. Edward Teleky knows that he is the one person the crowd will be watching.
The Juilliard School of Music graduate is the band's drum major, the one who will be high stepping, and giving directions with the twirl of his shiny mace - something he said onlookers pay close attention to, waiting to see if he drops it.
Admitting that at President Bush's first inauguration he was "scared to death that something was going to happen," Teleky harbors no such butterflies this time around. "I kind of vowed to myself that I'm having a good time this year," he said. "I've done it once before, and I'm going out and enjoying it. I'm really excited about this inaugural."