Starlifter: call us a rock band

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Solomon Cook
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

The connection between music and the United States military goes back to the founding of the nation. Historically, the beating of drums and the sounds of other instruments would be played as armies marched into battle.

Although, the purpose of the connection has changed over years, military bands and groups such as Starlifter, a contemporary rock band, maintain that ironclad, time-honored tradition. As time and warfare have evolved these bands still remain, but their focus is on morale and recruitment.

“We serve the same 10 state area of responsibility that Air Mobility Command does,” said Staff Sgt. Bryan Andrews, Band of Mid-America bass player. “We travel throughout the region on behalf of AMC honoring, inspiring and connecting. We connect with the public audiences, to honor the fallen members of our service fallen. We connect with audience members to honor those currently serving at home and abroad.”

Air Force bands fall underneath the career field of public affairs. The largest of these bands is the Air Force band, followed closely by the Band of Mid-America. These musicians are then further divided into small groups such as the Spectrum Wind, a winds and percussion band, and Starlifter.

“There are roughly 60 people and we have a large concert band and ensemble that also serves the ability to provide ceremonial marches for the funeral state plan,” Andrews explained. “We have also been utilized to honor service members at sporting events and to assist official ceremonies on base changes at command.”

The members of Starlifter can be seen across Scott Air Force Base at various high level events. They play cover songs as well as original compositions conducting merriment in bringing added flair to events.

In addition to performing around the installation, Starlifter travels the globe showcasing their unique musical skills they bring to the Air Force.

“I returned to BOMA a few months ago and while I was out, I traveled throughout that 36 nation AOR connecting with international audiences from Indonesia to Singapore, Australia and China connecting with diverse audiences that had never interacted with an American military band before,” Andrew said. There aren't many services in the world that have that capacity to be able to connect with audiences in that way.”

“The bands serve as that point of cultural exchange for foreign audiences and the impact that has had on people's perceptions of America -- it cannot be underestimated,” he continued.

Joining an Air Force Band is a slightly different process than other members enlisting or commissioning. Andrews explained it as a reversed process.

“We post openings for specific instruments and people submit their applications,” he elaborated. “Then we bring in those individuals to audition and then once they have met musical criteria and past the audition we give them clearance to the list in the Air Force. So it's kind of backwards from what other people are used to. Everybody else goes and enlists and then they get their [Air Force Specialty Code] at BMT or prior.”

Being notified that you are potentially going to fulfill one of your dreams is something one would not forget. 

“I was ecstatic. I felt a great sense of accomplishment because the band career field is highly competitive,” said Senior Airman Josiah Joyce, BoMA guitarist.

Going forward from his selection and entry into this selective career field gives Joyce the same sense of wonder in each one of his performances – giving back to the audience.

“When I am performing, my focus is usually on the audience,” said Joyce. “I always hope to give them something that they can connect with. When I see that what we are doing is affecting the audience positively then I know we did what we came to do… inspire and connect!”

This is undoubtedly due to the nature of their job. The Air Force can train someone to be a fighter pilot or a maintainer, but having the ear, spirit and talent to be a musician is usually gifted to people naturally.

As members of the Band of Mid-America continue to share their skills with the installation of Scott and the globe, they ensure everyone is on the same beat.