Florence Henderson, U.S. Air Force Band and Select Student Musicians Present Gala Concert for Music Education Week

Actress/singer Florence Henderson narrated “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” during the Air Force Band Gala Concert.

The United States Air Force Concert Band and Singing Sergeants usually perform summer concerts at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. With a design that features three striking stainless steel spires soaring upwards, the memorial is visible for miles around.

MENC and the Air Force Band had planned to hold their gala concert for Music Education Week in Washington at the memorial, but the threat of a thunderstorm moved the event indoors to the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, where Music Education Week was headquartered.

As Colonel Dennis M. Layendecker explained to audience laughter, “Those are three of the biggest lightning rods you will ever see, so we don’t take any chances.”

Nonetheless, the large concert audience was enthusiastic, and there were numerous standing ovations for a concert program that included “An American Symphony” by Michael Kamen from the film Mr. Holland’s Opus and “Americans We” by Henry Fillmore.

The concert was memorable in other ways. Actress and singer Florence Henderson, who participated in several Music Education Week Events, including MENC’s Rally for Music Education, narrated a history of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” while the Air Force Band played.

Henderson said she was honored to perform with the band, and she expressed appreciation for the dedication of music teachers she had as a child. Music educators, she said, connect with students in a unique way.

“They recognized something in me, that I could sing, and it changed my life,” Henderson said.

Colonel Dennis M. Layendecker, commander and music director of the Air Force Band (right) congratulates composer and MENC member Kevin Kaisershot after the concert. 

The concert also featured the debut of a new composition, “The Music Teachers March,” by ASCAP composer and MENC member Kevin Kaisershot.

Selected students of MENC members also performed with the Air Force Band and expresed their enthusiasm about the opportunity to perform with such high-caliber professional musicians.

Layendecker, who is retiring as commander and music director of the band, received an award from MENC in recognition of his dedication to music education. In his next job he will direct instrumental studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Roz Fehr, June 25, 2009. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education