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 Las Vegas Sun tribute to Michaelina Bellamy
U.S. Air Force Band loses two legends

Posted 4/11/2012   Updated 4/16/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Senior Master Sgt. Joe Jackson
The USAF Band


4/11/2012 - Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, D.C.  --  The members of The United States Air Force Band mourn the recent passing of two highly talented former members--Michaelina Bellamy and retired Chief Master Sgt. Leigh Steiger on April 7 and 8, respectively. Bellamy was a vocalist with the Airmen of Note, and Steiger served as a woodwind performer, arranger with the Concert Band and a regional band manager.

Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) Leigh Steiger
Chief Master Sgt.
(Ret.) Leigh Steiger
Steiger was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and entered the U.S. Air Force in 1968 after graduating from Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., with a dual degree in clarinet and music education. In addition to his assigned duty as an arranger, he performed on bass clarinet, clarinet and saxophone with the Concert Band. He has also appeared with a diverse array of musical performers, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea, Buck Owens, Chuck Mangione and the Lennon Sisters.

29 years later, Steiger retired from the Air Force as a Chief Master Sergeant, his distinctive career culminating as the manager of the Air Force Band of the Pacific. Upon his retirement, he reflected on his primary principle that guided him over his career: taking care of people. “I've been trying to do that my entire career, especially since I made chief,” Steiger added, “It says it all on Gen. Rutherford's Order of the Sword coin; ‘Take care of your people.’ That's been my big focus.”

Retired Col. Arnald D. Gabriel, Conductor Emeritus of The U.S. Air Force Band, hired Steiger into the Air Force 44 years ago. “The US Air Force Band has lost another family member,” said Gabriel. “I share the grief with everyone who knew Leigh. As we reflect on our lives, it is the profound friendships that we had that are paramount. Leigh Steiger was part of the best years of our lives.”

Staff Sgt. Miki Bellamy
Staff Sgt.
Mikie Bellamy
California native Michaelina Bellamy, affectionately known during her Air Force Band days as “Mikie,” got her first taste of military performance when she travelled to Vietnam on a USO Tour with Bob Hope in 1970 at age 16. After hearing the Airmen of Note on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, she was inspired to join the U.S. Air Force at age 18, and during her 2-year tour of duty was a vocalist with the Airmen of Note.

Bellamy and Chief Master Sgt. (Ret.) Larry Trautman, former trumpeter and manager of the “Note” joined the band on the same day in August of 1973. Trautman reflected on his former colleague. “I could tell immediately that she was an incredibly talented individual and would certainly be an asset to the band. Mikie was introduced to the world in 1974 at one of The Band's Guest Artist Series concerts at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington in front of thousands”

“Harry Gleeson, the Air Force Band announcer, introduced her by saying, ‘Ladies & gentlemen, now this is how an Air Force Sergeant is supposed to look!’” said Trautman. “Mikie came out in an evening gown with her flowing blonde hair and electrified the crowd with a thrilling rendition of ‘God Bless the Child,’ arranged by staff arranger Mike Crotty.”

Listen to Staff Sgt. Mikie Bellamy's 1974 performance of “God Bless the Child” at DAR Constitution Hall

Following her time in The U.S. Air Force Band, Bellamy made her way to Las Vegas, where she entertained audiences as a solo and backing artist with dozens of top performers in many Las Vegas venues. Notably, she was the principal singer in “Folies Bergere” at Tropicana for a decade ending in 1990, and a touring featured vocalist with Engelbert Humperdinck.

The U.S. Air Force Band notes the passing of these incredibly talented individuals - each before their time - with great sadness, yet the fondest memories.

(Story corrected for Staff Sgt. Bellamy's rank which was incorrectly printed. Our apologies to her family)



tabComments
4/16/2012 4:48:02 PM ET
What a beautiful tribute to my mother Michaelina Bellamy Thank you for this and the link to the song It's part of one of my earliest memories and one of the best performances of my mother's career.I did want to point out that my mom was a Ssgt at the time of her official separation. She earned that rank and deserves to be addressed correctly. Thank you.
Maria Kintner, Las Vegas NV
 
4/11/2012 7:21:47 PM ET
I had the honor of serving with both Leigh and Mikie. Both were incredible talents. We truly served during the good times. This administration has proposed huge cuts to the AF Band program. They should not be allowed to take effect. Talents like these should not be silenced.
Dave Wadsworth, Las Vegas NV
 
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