Air Force Band of Flight’s annual holiday concert

Photo: Santa performs with United States Air Force Band of Flight

By Tim Smith


One of the most eagerly anticipated musical events every Christmas season is the annual concert performed by the United States Air Force Band of Flight. This year’s program will be held at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force from Dec. 15-17. The Band of Flight has performed holiday concerts since its inception in 1942. The most recent exception was in 2016, when many of the band’s members were deployed for active duty.

Master Sergeant Alyson Jones is the band’s only Dayton-area native. She also doubles as the organization’s Director of Public Relations.

“I grew up in Beavercreek and was heavily influenced by the Muse Machine and the opportunities it provided in the Dayton Area, especially the musicals they put on every year,” she says. “Candidates for the position of USAF Bandsman undergo a rigorous audition process. Individuals must display knowledge of many versatile musical styles and the ability to sight read competently. Band Commanders are looking for the finest musicians in the country. Those selected often have numerous music degrees and years of playing experience.”

Air Force bands, such as the Band of Flight, have a rich legacy dating back to their formation in 1942, initially as the Army Air Forces Band under the direction of legendary big band leader Glenn Miller. Under his leadership, the AAF Band performed throughout the European Theater of Operations from 1942 through 1944. Miller’s goal was to modernize the traditional military band as a way to boost morale for American and Allied Forces troops. The Band of Flight continues that objective.

“The Air Force bands were definitely influenced by Glenn Miller,” Jones says. “There is a really great exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force for Glenn Miller. Military bands have been around for many years. They started off marching the troops into battle, and now we foster morale for the men and women who serve. Recently, our band performed for the 75th Anniversary of the Doolittle Raiders Mission during WWII. Colonel Richard Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Raider was in attendance. Performing for our veterans is the greatest honor of any USAF Bandsman.”

Attendees at this year’s performance can expect a mix of traditional holiday fare, new music, and some other musical treats.

“We have a 17-member organization comprised of 15 musicians, our Director of Operations, Mr. Greg Sell, and our awesome Administrative Assistant, Chrissie Atkins,” Jones says. “The band has two small performing ensembles. Systems Go is our 7-member popular music combo, and Wright Brass is our 6-member brass quintet. The members in these small groups combine to make-up the Air Force Band of Flight. Additionally, many of the members perform as solo musicians to support military and civilian events. Our band supports numerous military ceremonies on base and at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. At least half of the band’s members deploy to Southwest Asia and other disclosed locations every three years in support of Air Force Central Command.”

The Band of Flight is one of 10 active-duty Air Force and 5 Air National Guard bands. Under the command of Lt Col Shawn E. Coil and the direction of Chief Master Sergeant Michael P. Marshall, the band supports functions for the 88th Air Base Wing, Air Force Material Command, and the state of Ohio. In addition to their annual holiday concert, the Band of Flight maintains an active schedule throughout the year.

“The band currently travels throughout the state of Ohio performing at over 250 events annually,” Jones says. “The band has performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland and the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton. In addition, the band has supported numerous professional sporting events, including the 2016 World Series in Cleveland, and the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Cincinnati. The band’s community and educational outreach programs provide opportunities to perform at festivals, civic events, universities, and conservatories throughout Ohio.”

The Band of Flight Holiday Concert is a free event, but due to its popularity, tickets are required, and are limited to four tickets per person. Tickets may be obtained one of two ways. Requests can be made in person at the Air Force Museum Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those who cannot make it in person may request tickets by calling 937.255.5924. Those requesting tickets must provide their name, phone number, mailing address, preferred date, and the number of tickets they would like mailed to them.

This seasonal musical gift is Wright-Patterson’s way of giving something back to the public.

“We would like the audience to take away our sincerest thank you,” Jones says. “Wright-Patterson is so fortunate to have great support from the Miami Valley community. The men and women who serve at Wright-Patt are grateful and thankful for the support the community provides to them and their families.”

The U.S. Air Force Band of Flight Holiday Concert will be presented at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Dec. 15-17. The concert on Friday, Dec. 15 will begin at 7:30 p.m., followed by matinee performances on Saturday, Dec. 16 and Sunday, Dec. 17 starting at 2:30 pm. All performances will take place in the museum’s Carney Auditorium. Tickets can be obtained at the museum Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., by calling 937.255.5924.

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at

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