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News > Newest band member leads Ceremonial Brass on first American concert tour
Air Force Band Ceremonial Brass plays at University of South Florida
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Shanti Nolan, conductor for the U.S. Air Force Band Ceremonial Brass and a native of Vero Beach, Fla., introduces the group during a concert at the University of South Florida Concert Hall in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 13, 2012. The Ceremonial Brass is on their first American concert tour, playing at a dozen venues throughout Florida. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump/Released.
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Newest band member leads Ceremonial Brass on first American concert tour

Posted 1/21/2012   Updated 2/28/2012 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

1/21/2012 - West Palm Beach, Fla. -- The newest member of The United States Air Force Band is leading the Ceremonial Brass as the conductor during their first American concert tour Jan. 11-23 throughout Florida.

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Shanti C. Nolan graduated officer training school in Oct. 2011 and joined the Air Force Band in November.

For Nolan, the tour is a bit of a homecoming. The lieutenant graduated from Vero Beach High School in 1998 and taught there from 2002 to 2006 following her undergraduate education at Stetson University in Deland.

Following her teaching career, Nolan went to the University of Minnesota to earn a master's degree and doctorate, graduating in May 2011. The notion of playing in a military band appealed to her when she ran into one of her old professors from Stetson University, who had joined the Air Force Band a few years prior.

"I was applying for college teaching jobs when I sat next to Willie Clark, my professor at Stetson University, at the Dec. 2010 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic," Nolan said. Clark, a technical sergeant with The U.S. Air Force Band's Ceremonial Brass, was serving as a tubist and told her the reasons he loved his job, which convinced Nolan to audition.

After sending in a resume and a DVD of her conducting, Nolan flew to Washington, D.C., in March along with nine other people to compete for a spot with The U.S. Air Force Band. Each person was given a music theory test and an oral training test, followed by a 30-minute practice with The U.S. Air Force Concert Band.

Nolan was one of two interviewed and had high hopes she would win the position, but was "left devastated" when she didn't get the position.

Several weeks later, she received a call saying there was an open position. She was asked to go on tour with the Air Force band from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Following the tour, she finally received the call she was hoping for--she was asked to join the band.

"I have never been so excited in my life as when I got that phone call," Nolan said.

2nd Lt. Shanti Nolan
2nd Lt. Shanti Nolan
The lieutenant said the biggest reason for her to join the U.S. Air Force band career field was the mission.

"The thing that drew me in was playing for the masses and the impact the band has," she said. "There are great musicians and there's great music. We represent and support the people fighting for us, in the dirt, getting shot at. I can't think of a better way to spend my life."

She said her job as the conductor is humbling because the musicians are very talented, which can also be nerve-wracking.

"It's intimidating to stand in front of them because the musicians are some of the best in the world," Nolan said. "However, music is a universal language. It takes a little bit of time for them to see who you are as a musician, but we have built a rapport in a short time."

The Ceremonial Brass noncommissioned officer in charge and drum major for The U.S. Air Force Band said Nolan is doing a phenomenal job leading the group.

"She brings fresh new experience and youthful exuberance," said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Edward Teleky, a 25-year veteran of the band. The chief said the lieutenant's personable, caring nature has helped her as a leader; and the trip has given the lieutenant the opportunity to learn through the company grade officer and senior noncommissioned officer bond.

"This tour epitomizes it," he said. "This trip has strengthened that bond. In my 25 years, this is the most positive experience in the Ceremonial Brass. She's a big part of that. She has flourished. She has earned the respect of the group."

Clark, the lieutenant's former instructor, said she was a well prepared and well liked student and he sees those same qualities now that she's an officer.

"When she's up there, there's a sense of calm and preparedness," Clark said. "She's like the Rock of Gibraltar. That's the kind of leader you want to have. I really see her as a leader more so now."

The Ceremonial Brass is nearing the end of their winter tour, with the theme of "American Song and Cinema." The tour features a world premier of a new work commissioned by the band and dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen entitled "Red Tail Skirmish" by composer Bruce Yurko.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military aviators in the U.S. armed forces who trained in Tuskegee, Ala. Serving during World War II in the Army Air Corps, these Airmen were subject to racial discrimination. Despite these adversities, the Tuskegee Airmen--proudly referred to as "Red Tails" or "Red Tail Angels" because of the distinctive crimson paint on the tail section of their aircraft--trained and flew with distinction, receiving the Congressional Gold Medal for valor and performance.

"Red Tail Skirmish" is a musical epic that depicts the tension, thrill and excitement of an aerial dogfight through a fast-paced work for the brass and percussion ensemble.

The program also features a Glenn Miller Medley entitled "Miller Time," arranged by former Ceremonial Brass member David Bandman, a retired master sergeant. The group is also playing a medley of works by film composer and former Air Force Band member John Williams entitled "Epic Themes."

The Ceremonial Brass' noncommissioned officer in charge said the first show came off as a major success.

The origins of the Ceremonial Brass trace back to 1964 when The United States Air Force Headquarters Command Band was incorporated into The U.S. Air Force Band as a ceremonial unit. It became an all-brass and percussion ensemble in 1985 and was renamed The Ceremonial Brass.

Since those early years, it has evolved into an organization consisting of world-class brass players, percussionists and a drum major. The Ceremonial Brass represent all Airmen while standing on the tarmac for the arrival of heads of state; providing full-honors during state funerals; and, marching down Pennsylvania Avenue during presidential inaugural parades.

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