TERRY GROSS, host: Last month while I was on vacation, I spent a few days in Boston. Looking through the concert listings, I noticed a noontime performance at King's Chapel by an Air Force clarinet quartet called the Bay State Winds. According to the listings, they were going to perform works by Sousa, Ives, Gershwin, Rossini and Glazunov. That sounded great to me, so I went.
They changed the program but I didn't care. The concert was wonderful and moving. I thought wouldn't it be great if the quartet performed a few pieces on our show just before September 11th in tribute to our country and the men and women in the military who have served it. I'm glad to say they agreed and we're about to hear them.
The Bay State Winds is the clarinet quartet of the Air Force Band of Liberty. They've been playing for military and civilian functions since 2001. The members are Master Sergeant Jennifer E. Dashnaw, Master Sergeant Kevin Connors, Technical Sergeant Christy Bailes and Staff Sergeant Matthew Ayala, who is featured on bass clarinet.
Welcome all of you to FRESH AIR. It's is truly a pleasure to have you. I'd love for you to start with a march. There's a march that you played when I saw you at King's Chapel in Boston. And would you play that march for us now? It's a Sousa march and whoever is willing can introduce it for us.
Master Sgt. JENNIFER DASHNAW: OK. Great. My name is Master Sergeant Jen Dashnaw, and the march you heard at King's Chapel was one of John Philip Sousa's most famous marches called "Hands Across the Sea," so that's what we're going to play for you now.
(Soundbite of song, "Hands Across the Sea")
GROSS: Well, that was wonderful. Thank you so much for playing that, and that was the Bay State Winds. They're the clarinet quartet of the U.S. Air Force Band of Liberty.
When you enlist with the hopes of being in a military band, do you also go through basic training and get trained in weaponry or flying planes?
Master Sgt. KEVIN CONNORS: Yes we do. My name is Kevin Connors, and we all go through basic training and it's been in San Antonio, Texas at Lackland Air Force Base. All Air Force members go through the same type of basic training before joining their individual units.
GROSS: You have a great repertoire. You perform things from, you know, Sousa marches to Charles Ives compositions, you know, Gershwin, Rossini. It's a very eclectic mix. But I'm wondering like when you perform for the troops, do they know the repertoire and does the Air Force had like a hip-hop band or a metal band, you know?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Technical Sgt. CHRISTY BAILES: Yes. We cater towards the troops. The rock band right now is working on some new songs that the kids are listening to. What they do is they go through and they talk to young soldiers and they ask them what do you want to listen to? And then they find those tunes and we actually arrange our own tunes in the squadron. It gets kind of complicated because of all the transitions but they work really hard and yes, we do cater towards what the young soldiers want to hear.
GROSS: We'll hear more music from the Bay State Winds, the clarinet quartet of the Air Force Band of Liberty after a break.
This is fresh air.
GROSS: My guests are members of the Bay State Winds, the clarinet quartet of the Air Force Band of Liberty. We invited them to play a few songs in tribute to our country and the men and women who have served.
Now when I saw you at the noontime concert at King's Chapel in Boston last month, you closed with a medley of the four Armed Forces themes, and you suggested that each person in the audience who had served in the military stand when their theme was played. And for each theme at least one person stood and saluted.
And I have to say it was very moving, in part because it made me realize that for instance the guy in front of me had probably been doing some pretty rough stuff. And I wouldn't have known that, I wouldn't have thought of that and it made me think of all the people I run into in the course of a day or in the course of a week who have been in war zones, and of all the families with loved ones who are or have been in war zones. And when you meet them you don't necessarily know that and you don't know what they or their loved one has been through.
Can you talk about the significance of playing this medley for you now?
Staff Sgt. MATTHEW AYALA: This Staff Sergeant Matthew. I will say any time that we perform this piece, either with a clarinet quartet or the concert band, which we do pretty much the same arrangement, I'm always looking at the audience and just to see if I can find someone who is maybe crying, or let's say some people have like difficulty standing up or something, but when they hear their service song, they definitely do whatever they can just to stand up.
GROSS: How did you start asking people to stand?
Technical Sgt. BAILES: I think it's been a tradition. I've been in for 17 years and I think that we've always asked people to stand. But just recently I think that - well, maybe it's just because, you know, I've been in longer, but it's just so wonderful to see these people stand up.
Master Sgt. CONNORS: And that tradition is taught to them in basic training. In basic training, whenever a military member hears their service song they're supposed to stand up and be proud.
GROSS: So I'm going to ask you if you could close with your medley of the Armed Forces themes. And it's actually really fun to hear this arranged for four clarinets. You know, you don't really usually hear these songs played by four clarinets.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: So did you do the arrangements? Where do the arrangements come from?
Master Sgt. DASHNAW: Again, it came from a clarinetist by the name of Mark Craig. And he's actually stationed at the Band of the Golden West at Travis Air Force Base. And he has done a lot of arrangements for - not only for woodwind quartet, but for also woodwind quintet as well, and we love his arrangements.
GROSS: OK. Well, great. So this is the Bay State Winds, which is the clarinet quartet of the U.S. Air Force Band of Liberty performing for us a medley of the Armed Forces themes.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: I think you guys are great.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: That just sounded so good. You're so talented. I wish you all well and thank you so much for speaking with us and for playing for us. Thank you.
Master Sgt. DASHNAW: Thank you.
Technical Sgt. BAILES: Thank you.
Staff Sgt. AYALA: Thank you.
Master Sgt. CONNORS: You're welcome.
GROSS: The Bay State Winds is the clarinet quartet of the Air Force Band of Liberty performing for us a medley of the Armed Forces themes. We heard Master Sergeant Jennifer E. Dashnaw, Master Sergeant Kevin Connors, Technical Sergeant Christy Bailes and Staff Sergeant Matthew Ayala.
You can hear four recordings by the Bay State Winds on our website, freshair.npr.org, where you can also download podcasts of our show. They have one more song to perform for us, "America the Beautiful."
(Soundbite of song, "America the Beautiful")
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.