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AFCENT Band speaks language of peace

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Steven M. Przyzycki
  • AFCENT Band
On a two week tour through these Central Asian countries, the U.S. Air Forces Central Band "Mirage" performed public concerts at performance halls, universities and for several media productions May 9-25, 2009. Performing in support of the U.S. Government's cooperative relationship here, the band collaborated with local musicians, entertaining thousands of concert patrons.

The AFCENT Band "Mirage" is comprised of eight musicians who deployed to Southwest Asia from the United States Air Force Academy Band located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Mirage performs throughout the area of responsibility to positively promote troop morale, diplomacy and outreach to host nation communities.

The band's tour started with a performance at Al Buraimi University College in Buraimi, Oman. This university, the first and largest in Oman to attract male and female students from here and abroad, was celebrating its "Cultural Exchange Week." The Sultan of Oman is dedicated to education, especially the study of the English language. Mirage's performance culminated the end of a diverse week for the student body and local dignitaries.

Other performances in Oman included a concert at the Azzan Bin Qais School in the city of Muscat, and a performance for outgoing U.S. Ambassador and Mrs. Gary Grappo at the American Embassy. Assistant Public Affairs Officer Walter Parrs stated, "The concert was great, and an invaluable experience for the students. This school is very progressive with English being taught here from elementary school through high school. Some graduating seniors will be attending Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh next year."

Mirage also played a concert and reception honoring the work carried out by the Ambassador and his spouse over the past three years. In attendance were more than 150 alumni and partners of a wide range of U.S. sponsored activities to include the Fulbright Program, the International Visitors Leadership Program, the American Corners, Projects of the Middle East Partnership and other programs that fulfill the Embassy's mission of building bridges between the United States and Oman. Embassy Public Affairs Officer Robert Arbuckle, who hosted the event said, "The cultural diplomacy embodied by the musicians of Mirage made for a very fitting tribute to the contributions that the Grappos have made to the Embassy's outreach efforts during their time in the Sultanate."

Ambassador Gary Grappo noted in his remarks that he is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy stating, "While at the Academy, some of my best experiences were listening to this band, or at least their predecessors. They are outstanding ambassadors themselves for the United States Air Force and their country."

Mirage continued its educational outreach and cultural exchange programs throughout the region of Bahrain as well. Most exciting was the joint performance by Mirage with local Bahraini musicians at the Bahrain Culture Hall on May 21, 2009. Embassy Control Officer David Edgington described the musical collaboration as "electrifying...the Bahraini people are proud of their country similar to the pride you might see in a small town in the U.S. Tonight, your performance allowed them to see you as individuals...you each offered a glimpse into your hearts and souls, and this is a very special thing."

English Language Officer Fife Mac Duff stated, "There was so much pride in seeing musicians from both countries working together. Many people came to me after the concert and said that music is not only the Universal Language; it is also the Language of Peace."

While visiting Bahrain, several members of Mirage took the opportunity to visit the Grand Mosque. Their tour guide explained the principals of the Muslim faith. He explained that basically all people want the same things in life. He talked about the possibility of world peace, stressing that there is nothing wrong with people disagreeing with one another so long as all people respect one another and are willing to sit down and communicate. Having studied in the United States, this man of Bahraini decent expressed his fondness for America. "We all have so much in common," he explained. "World peace can be a reality...and you musicians will be the start of it."

The tour guide's sentiments reminded me of the words of an old adage from Africa. It serves to remind us that we are not all that different from one another, and that the world is smaller than we might have originally thought:

"No other person will ever walk the path that destiny has laid out for you
But along that path, you'll come home to a thousand different places
And even on the loneliest of nights when it seems there is no one else on earth willing to travel such a strange and magical road, you will find your 'tribe' out walking among the stars."