The music of Glenn Miller didn’t disappear when the band leader’s airplane vanished over the English Channel in 1944 during the World War II. Miller’s songs - and the big band sound - continue today in the U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note.
The 18-piece orchestra and one vocalist will perform at Jazz in June at Brookhaven Village in Norman on Friday at 7:00 p.m. They will be followed on the stage by Beto and the Fairlanes.
Senior Master Sergeant Tyler Kuebler, the Airmen of Note’s music director and lead alto saxophone player, spoke with KGOU’s Jacob McCleland shortly before a musical clinic at the Norman Public Library West.
Kuelber: I think for our veterans and people really of all ages, the music speaks to a certain time in America. The end of World War II, the service that people were doing, a sense of patriotism. I think it brings back really great memories as well as just being really fun music, enjoyable to listen to, danceable, and just happy music to play and to listen to.
McCleland: What other artists are in the repertoire of the Airmen of Note?
Kuebler: Oh boy, we take that legacy of innovation that he started back in 1950 and earlier, and we’ve taken that and tried to keep on the cutting edge of big band through the years so that we’ll have everything from early 40s swing, Bix Beiderbecke, Coleman Hawkins, Glenn Miller of course, all the way up through the most cutting edge big band artists of today. We like to cultivate our own sound as well. We have a lot of writers in the band and we’ve always had a chief staff arranger for the band that helps identify the sound of the Airmen of Note through the years. So we feel like we have a core sound that our audience and fans can really identify immediately.
McCleland: You mention that core sound that your fans can identify with, but also kind of the innovation. Is there some kind of a line there? What the line between maintaining tradition but still innovating?
Kuebler: Right, I think it’s remaining relevant. I think all artists deal with that to a degree. But our mission first and foremost is to honor our veterans and to represent the men and women of the United States Air Force. So we do that with a wide variety of programming that lets people in tries to be really inclusive. A typical concert will have swing from Count Basie, of course Glenn Miller in every one of our concerts, we’ll have some rock or funk from the 80s, we’ll have some real high energy, aggressive big band stuff from the current crop of writers, so, yeah, we try to be really inclusive with our programming.
McCleland: The Airmen of Note, one of the reasons it seems like this band is so distinct is because not only this role as touring musicians, but also educators. Does your role as educators, does that seep its way into the performance at all?
Kuebler: Absolutely. I think it informs almost everything that we do in terms of how we relate to our audiences. We do have a lot of highly educated people in the band. Many people have a masters and more now are getting their doctorates. For instance, this afternoon, we’re at the Norman Public Library [West] and we’ll be doing … we have a program called AIM, which Advancing through Innovation and Music, and it’s our education and outreach program. Sometimes we’ll go into secondary schools, universities and colleges and we’ll spend an afternoon doing clinics and master classes, working with the students and trying to impact them positively.