Senior Airman Simon Thomsen gives tips on how to play the drums after the U.S. Air Forces Central Band "Vector" performance at the Mayak Camp, Kyrgyzstan, July 23, 2012. Vector played for various audiences on a four-day tour throughout the Issyk-Kul province. Thomsen is a drummer deployed out of the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. and is a native of Los Angeles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
Senior Airman Simon Thomsen plays the drums for Kyrgyz Republic children after the U.S. Air Forces Central Band "Vector" performance at the Mayak Camp, Kyrgyzstan, July 23, 2012. After the concert, Vector band members interacted with the children and played different instruments with them. Thomsen is a drummer deployed out of the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. and is a native of Los Angeles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
by Staff Sgt. Matt Benedetti
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
7/31/2012 - 7/23/2012 - Tyup Village, Kyrgyzstan -- The U.S. Air Forces Central band, Vector, arrived in the morning at the Mayak Camp on July 23, 2012 and departed in the afternoon with 150 new fans.
Vector, the nine-member band comprised of Airmen from the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in Calif., played an inspired performance for the approximately 150 teenagers at the summer camp in Tyup Village on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Vector performed at the summer camp to develop friendships and provide entertainment to the young people. The musical ambassadors were on the second day of a four-day tour of the region and performed a mix of genres including rock, country and salsa music.
The young audience could have been mistaken for American teenagers as many sported hats and shirts featuring sports teams from the National Football League or Major League Baseball. Although the young audience enjoyed the entire group, requesting autographs of all the band members, it was clear that percussionist Senior Airman Simon Thomsen, was their favorite.
Thomsen, who sang, "Life is a Highway," found himself as the center of attention after the show. Kids swarmed around his drum set as he demonstrated the instrument and then allowed his young fans to participate.
Thomsen marveled at the experience that only a shared love of music can bring. "After lunch, I approached my set and noticed kids playing around it. They were very respectful and careful with the instruments. I sat down, invited them to play, and showed them some basic beats-- they immediately responded. It struck me how patient they were with one another," said Thomsen, a New York City native.
Thomsen spent close to 40 minutes showing the kids his technique, which he has honed for 20 years. "Drums are visual, kinetic instruments that are easy to relate to for everyone. Guitar and horns take awhile to get used to, but drums are very primal and the rhythm is directly connected to a heartbeat," he said.
Lina Yashin, a participant at the camp, loved the band and the opportunity to meet Vector. "The concert was awesome. They came all the way from the United States to give us wonderful music. We loved all the songs but I really liked playing the drums," she said. "I hope that they come back again soon."
Thomsen recalled when he was a kid growing up in New York City. "When I was their age, I was into baseball and would attend minor league games. Before the games, during batting practice, I would ask for autographs and the players would often spend time talking to me."
"When you are a teenager, it is a big deal to have someone you look up to give you their time. I never forgot the experience and understand the positive impression we are making here," he said. "To have someone you admire at a high level step away from their craft and spend time on a personal level is important at that age."
The Mavka camp is sponsored by the United States Embassy in Bishkek through the American Corner program. American Corner is an information resource center modeled in the American style with the purpose of providing comprehensive and current information relative to the United States, promoting mutual understanding between the American and Kyrgyz people.
The director of the Mavka Camp, Zoya Musieva, was grateful for the visit and performance.
"We enjoyed having the American artists here. We spend time everyday studying American music, art and culture so it is wonderful to see an American band perform in person," Musieva said.