Air Forces Central Band Wild Blue Country performs for a standing room only crowd at the State Philharmonic Theatre in downtown Bishkek. The U.S. Embassy to Kyrgyzstan hosted the free event. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy Moless)
Air Forces Central Band Superintendant, Senior Master Sgt. Jerome Oddo and AFCENT Band NCOIC Tech. Sgt. Stephen Brannen entertain a full-house at the State Philharmonic Theatre in Bishkek. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy Moless)
by Master Sgt. Karl Bradley
AFCENT Band Operations and Logistics Representative
4/12/2011 - BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Downtown Bishkek is busy with the rush of people making their way home after a long day of work or maybe to a once in a lifetime event at the Kyrgyz State Philharmonic Theatre. On the night of April 4, the sounds of country music have migrated half-way across the world to tell stories of love, hard work and the cowboy.
"It was a challenge getting this performance line-up together," said Tech. Sgt. Stephen Brannen, NCOIC, Air Forces Central Band, "but the (embassy) interpreter made getting our messages across so easy, we all felt confident the music would win them over."
The standing room only crowd was greeted by Mr. Larry Memmott, Charge de'affaires for the U.S. Embassy to Kyrgyzstan and Colonel Dwight Sones, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, Transit Center at Manas. Their kind words put the audience of over 1,400 at ease. This evening, Wild Blue Country was an outstretched hand from America to Kyrgyzstan and a chance to bond on the most basic human level through the emotional power of music.
The band opened with classic country tunes to rousing applause. Senior Master Sgt. Jerome Oddo, superintendant of the AFCENT Band, began telling them about the American cowboy with help from the U.S. Embassy interpreter who was masterful at translating the entire evening's script.
"I think the people here (Kyrgyzstan) like in my native Poland, always think of the American cowboy as the Hollywood gun slinger who rides into town and shoots everybody who gets in his way," said Master Sgt. Janusz Masztalerz, AFCENT Band sound engineer. "Cowboys are just real people with real emotions."
This connection to the cowboy took them very naturally into other topics Kyrgyz's and American's have in common such as love, heartbreak, playing hard and enjoying friendships.
"In ten years here I've seen many groups from the U.S.", said State Philharmonic Stage Manager. "I didn't realize (until now) American's had feelings!"
During the latter half of the show, Master Sgt. Masztalerz introduced the band members in perfect Russian. He had the crowd say "Howdy" to each member and guess what instrument they were playing. The hardest to guess was the instrument synonymous with the sound of country music....the steel guitar.
This was truly a special evening for all who joined Wild Blue Country in downtown Bishkek at the State Philharmonic as was apparent by everyone's jovial mood leaving the theatre. On the way home Mr. Memmott remarked, "The last event barely had 600 people; tonight was standing room only. What a fantastic, successful evening!"