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Military concert goes jazzy

by Sally Roberts
sroberts@nevadaappeal.com
CourtesyStaff Sgt. Geoff Fisher, vocalist for The Commanders Jazz Ensemble, points to the instrumentalists in the band, which iis part of the Air Force Band of the Golden West.
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The military drum marks a jazzy beat as The Commanders Jazz Ensemble, a division of the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West, presents a free concert at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Carson City Community Center.

The “Getting in the Mood” concert is an advance event for the Jazz! Carson City music festival coming up in August, which is co-sponsored by Mile High Jazz Band Association.

The Commanders, based at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California under the direction of Tech. Sgt. Jim Butler, consists of 18 members and occasional civilian guests. The highly skilled musicians carry on the American musical tradition of the great big bands, with flights through the full gamut of jazz music: traditional, cool, bop, swing, Broadway, pop, Latin and patriotic music. They also recall the jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Count Basie, to Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and more modern sounds.

Staff Sgt. Geoff Fisher, a vocalist with The Commanders as well as tour manager, stopped by the Capital City on April 27 to scout out the venues to “check out the stage plot, so when the band arrives, it’s a seamless process to set up,” he said.

It’s a bit more of a challenge here, as the performers will share the stage with the props from a production of “Oklahoma!,” which opens today.

The band performs anywhere from five to 10 concerts or more a month. This will be a shorter tour than usual, with stops in Paradise, Calif., and Fallon, as well as Carson City, where the band will also present a clinic May 13 at Carson High School with the jazz band and wind ensemble.

Fisher’s own career began in school music programs.

“I grew up in Twin Falls (Idaho) when they still required music to be taught to everyone in elementary school.”

He took up the upright bass in fifth grade and choir in junior high school. In high school, he sang in three different choirs.

Originally, he didn’t plan a music career. In the Air Force, he began working with aerospace ground equipment. Then he want on a special duty tour for 10 months in an Air Force band and liked it – a lot. So he auditioned and joined the Air Force music career field.

Music is a career choice he highly recommends and one The Commanders will demonstrate to the high school classes. They’ll talk about both a career in music and they’ll explain the procedure to combine music with a military career.

“We’ll be sharing our musical knowledge; encourage practicing and being the best you can be. We’ll encourage them to stick with the music,” he said.

“The best thing I could say about music for a career is that you can do this forever.”

Although The Commanders concert is free, people are encouraged to get their free tickets in advance. Tickets will guarantee general admission seating up to 6:45 p.m., at which time seating will be open to standbys. Tickets are available at Play Your Own Music in the Carson Mall and at the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1900 S. Carson St., Suite #100.

And if The Commanders get you in the mood for more jazz, details will be released soon for Jazz! Carson City music festival, which will feature 35-40 performances, mostly free, said David Bugli, leader of the Mile High Jazz Band.

For more information about “Getting in the Mood” concert and Jazz! Carson City, go to milehighjazz.com, or call 883-4154. For more information about The Commanders, go to http://www.bandofthegoldenwest.af.mil and go the “ensembles” page.