A Path to Music: Flight One shares career opportunities with local schools

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeffrey Grossi
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Flight One, the popular music component of The United States Air Force Band of Flight, performed for more than 70 high school students, March 10 2023, at South Side Area High School. As a part of 'Music in our Schools Month', the band visited seven school districts to build awareness of the Air Force in the local community and add to the education of nearby schools.

“We want to let people know that we aren’t all pilots,” said Master Sgt. Greg Pflugh, the non-commissioned officer in charge and saxophonist of Flight One. “It is our mission to Honor, Inspire and Connect. So we are working with recruiters to connect with students. To show them where their musicianship can lead and a path the Air Force can provide.”

Assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Flight One was approached by Master Sgt. Anthony Schmaus, a recruiter with the 311th Recruiting Squadron headquartered in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and acted as a liaison for interested school districts. As a former USAF musician, Schmaus saw Music in our Schools Month as an opportunity.

“Schmaus first reached out to us to see if we had interest in the band coming out,” said Matt Diehl, the Director of Bands for South Side Area School District. “We are always trying to get opportunities for our students to see and hear top level performance groups. Being a rural school district, we are kind of removed from the Pittsburgh area where it's more convenient for kids to go and see things. So we try to bring things to them. Knowing it is a military group and really high quality, we were totally interested.”

Flight One, is an ensemble of seven who specialize in rock and pop music. The band play decades-old classics from Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder as well as newer musical hits by Dua Lipa Bruno Mars.

“My hope is this gives our students a chance to broaden their horizons,” said Diehl. “I want them to see what kind of musical talent is out there. They know what is considered good in our school district but I want them to see the levels beyond that. They need to see that to give them something to strive for and obtain in their own personal musicianship. There are also career opportunities in the military for musicians. So I want them to be exposed to that. If someone goes to school for music or band, then they are aware those opportunities exist.”

Today's high schoolers have grown up with American military forces engaged in combat throughout their childhoods. Matthew Tumulty, the principal of South Side Area High School, hopes the performance broadens his student’s conception of the military.

Tumulty said, “I hope they see there is more to the branches of our military than the images or the pictures that they've received over the past two decades. A lot of kids need direction, they need some guidance, and that's something the military can provide.”

Air Force bands require those interested in joining to follow a five-step process. Applicants must first submit audition materials and, if determined skilled enough, then seek out a recruiter. Qualifying applicants are invited to live audition prepared compositions and to show ensemble skills. In addition to being musically qualified, applicants must also be fit to enlist as a member of the military service. From there, fully accepted recruits must complete basic training before joining their assigned band and performing live events.

The Band of Flight as a whole presents more than 250 performances annually, providing musical products for official military functions and ceremonies as well as civic events and public concerts.