U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West invigorates Stanford with 75th anniversary concert and lecture

Sept. 28, 2022, 9:37 p.m.

On Tuesday, the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West delivered a rejuvenating concert in the Bing Concert Hall, impressing the audience with a repertoire ranging from patriotic anthems to popular jazz tunes. Documenting the history of the Air Force as part of the ensemble’s 75th Anniversary Concert Tour in the Bay Area, the Stanford concert also featured the compositions of Stanford professor and Wind Symphony director Giancarlo Aquilanti Ph.D. ’96.

The band moved listeners with its powerful delivery of energizing rhythms and harmonies. Executing pieces such as “America, the Beautiful” with precision and emotion, the band, again and again, inspired the audience, with the love for their nation and one another — shining through triumphant chords. The “Eagle Squadron March,” composed during World War II to celebrate the volunteer American airmen who served with great distinction during the Battle of Britain, informed the audience’s understanding of the Air Force’s rich legacy.

Meanwhile, the selected jazz ensemble and vocalists’ performance of popular World War II-era jazz numbers such as “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by the Andrew Sisters filled one with the urge to get up and dance to the swingy tune. These pieces told the story of young girls’ loyalty to their soldier sweethearts and eagerness for their return from the war.

“To celebrate our 75th anniversary, almost every piece was connected to either our history or where we are going in the future, whether it be composers that were part of our heritage as musicians or the themes of the music that captured the identity of the Air Force,” said Lieutenant Colonel Cristina Moore Urrutia, commander and conductor of the band.

Aquilanti’s composition “Overture Italiana” was highly anticipated. Documenting the composer’s experience of walking through the streets of Serra De’ Conti, a small town in his native Italy, the work frequently transitioned from ecstatic trills celebrating the joys of life to meandering melodies portraying the serene setting.

a photo of the conductor of the Band of the Golden West with her arms up, looking sideways
Lieutenant Colonel Cristina M. Moore Urrutia waves her hands to set tempo for the band. She serves as the band’s conductor. (Photo: ANANYA NAVALE/The Stanford Daily)

“His music is so intricately woven,”  said Lieutenant Colonel Urrutia.

“He had things layered together, which makes [the texture] quite thick, yet at the same time there are pristine melodies throughout.”

The event promoted new music, new composers, and youth involvement throughout the night. A particularly intriguing number in the evening’s program was Airman 1st Class Colin Gordon’s masterful performance of Omar Thomas’ “Come Sunday,” which took the audience by surprise by demonstrating a wide range of extended techniques. The duck-like sound of the musician’s slap tonguing earned a bout of laughter from jovial listeners.

Earlier in the day, in a lecture event, a dozen members of the Band performed in smaller chamber ensembles — first, an eight-member group performing Mozart’s “Serenade in C minor,” followed by a jazz trio of a guitar, drum set, and string bass accompanied by vocals.

Programmed pieces also included Air-Force themed selections, such as “Fly Me to the Moon,” the jazz standard “Stardust” by Hoagy Carmichael, and “Come Fly With Me.”

Staff Sergeant Alena Zidlicky explained in a pre-concert Q&A session that the Air Force musicians were usually proficient in multiple capacities within the band. Similarly, a number of members emphasized the diversity in the educational backgrounds among the musicians.

30 band members and a conductor stand on stage, most holding instruments; they are dressed in black and blue uniforms
The U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West sits down to perform in Bing Concert Hall. The ensemble performed in honor of its 75th anniversary on Tuesday. (Photo: ANANYA NAVALE/The Stanford Daily)

“In the future, I would like to see us do more collaborations like [this concert and lecture] in parts of the country that may not see military uniforms very often. I would like to get involved with the youth and build positive relationships between the military and the communities that we serve,” said Lieutenant Colonel Urrutia.

The concert ended with the “Armed Services Medley” recognizing the family members of veterans of each of the six services of the U.S. armed forces. The band surprised the audience with an encore performance of “Main Title” from “Star Wars: A New Hope,” earning a long standing ovation.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

Ananya Navale ʼ25 is the Photography Department Managing Editor. Contact her at photode ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.Yuanlin (Linda) Liu ‘25 is the vol. 262 desk editor for the Arts & Life Culture beat. Contact her at ylinliu 'at' stanford.edu.

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