SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – Two Scott Airmen who perform as volunteer members of the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra say that music not only fulfills personal goals, but also serves as a way for them to connect with the community.
For Staff Sgt. Richard Ransom, a construction management technician with the 375th Civil Engineer Squadron, his passion for music started as a child playing the drums. He continued to play throughout high school, where he made the Wisconsin State Honors Band and performed in the drumline.
After joining the Air Force, he was uncertain how he could continue to play and grow as a musician. That’s when he found out about the second oldest, continuously performing orchestra in the U.S.: the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra, which was founded in 1866.
Ransom said he learned about the orchestra from a mutual friend who said they needed percussionists. He volunteered, auditioned and was accepted, and for the past three years has played the timpani, a set of kettle drums commonly played in orchestras.
“Being able to find a good hobby, something that interests you, some sort of passion that can benefit the community and benefit yourself … all ties together in a really meaningful way. You can find good purpose and meaning out of that,” he said.
“My experience with the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra over the last couple years has been really great. We do concerts through the fall and into the spring and take a break for the summer.”
The orchestra also works with other performing arts groups and provides opportunities to support local youth.
“We do the Nutcracker with the Belleville School of Ballet every year,” said Ransom. “We also have a youth outreach [program] where we talk with and perform with the Belleville Youth Orchestra. We play with them and instruct them on how to play music.”
Ransom’s work with the orchestra has set an example for other Airmen looking for ways to contribute to the community and pursue their passions.
(U.S. Air Force video by Senior Airman Katherine Walters)
For Lt. Col. Brooke Matson, 375th Air Mobility Wing Chief of Safety, learning about Ransom’s work with the orchestra and recently completing a leadership course with Belleville, led her to pull out her violin and join the all-volunteer group.
“Our Airmen can bring their passion and service to their duty locations outside the gate,” she said. “At the end of our tours, [our goal is to leave] the surrounding community better ... and [Ransom] is a wonderful example of that.”
Matson has been playing violin for years and played in an orchestra at a previous assignment in Japan. Despite her busy schedule and young family she said joining the orchestra is a way for her to give back to the community.
Ransom said that being a member of the orchestra has created a sense of family for him and that having another military member in the group has further enhanced that feeling.
“To have someone else who is active duty and knows what that entails: getting the mission done, then in our off duty time setting this time aside to volunteer and play with the orchestra; it adds a sense of understanding,” said Ransom. “We understand what it’s like and share that comradery.”
Robert Baker, the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra conductor, said it is great to have two Team Scott Airmen in their group.
“They’re both wonderful members,” said Baker. “They play their instruments well, which is important, but they are also very devoted to the organization. They help out as much as they can which helps us with reaching out to the community.”
Ransom said community service is an important part of the Air Force because it shows Airmen being invested in the culture, community, and the well-being of everyone.
“You’re part of something bigger than yourself, and that’s the best part of both the Air Force … and the orchestra,” he said.