USAF Total Force Band plays in Rose Parade

  • Published
  • By Louis Briscese
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
The United States Air Force Total Force Band kicked off the Air Force’s 70th birthday celebrations by playing at several venues in Southern California, culminating in an appearance in the 128th Rose Parade Jan. 2. 

The band is comprised of 103 active-duty and Air National Guard Airmen-musicians from around the Air Force with a majority of the members from the Air Force Band of the Golden West at Travis Air Force Base, California.

The Air Force uses music as a communication tool to highlight the capabilities, innovation, heritage and significance of airpower to national security. Capt. Rafael Toro-Quinones, the Air Force BOGW commander and action officer for the trip, shared his excitement about the band’s opportunity to represent the Air Force. 

“The BOGW usually belongs to Air Mobility Command and it’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of the total force effort to represent the Air Force on this type of stage,” Toro-Quinones said.

As part of the weeklong celebration, the band performed in, or hosted, several events including Bandfest, instrument clinics for students at Arcadia High School in Arcadia, California, and a retreat ceremony at Disneyland. The events were designed to increase public awareness and provide an understanding of the bravery, sacrifice and dedication of Airmen. 

Assembling musicians from different locations to form one harmonious and synchronized band can be challenging at times.
Lt. Col. Michael Willen, the Air Force Band of Mid-America commander based at Scott AFB, marched in his third Rose Parade and views it as any other mission.

“You bring together mission capabilities from all over the Air Force and you forward-deploy them to a location with a mission to execute,” Willen said. “The advanced team from Travis AFB did an excellent job of working out most of the bugs and avoiding the speedbumps.” 

An important part of the band’s appearance in Pasadena was supporting Air Force recruiting efforts. The band facilitated several music clinics for high school students to highlight what it does and how it fits into the Air Force mission. 

“We’re always looking for the next generation because our Airmen aren’t going to be here forever,” Willen said. “Anytime we get a chance to interface with youth and education, especially those on the cusp of college or entering a service, we want to afford them the opportunity to gain the knowledge of what the Air Force is all about.” 

The band held several rehearsals at Arcadia High School, just a few miles from Pasadena. As a way to show their appreciation for the hospitality they received, band members provided several music clinics for the musicians of the high school’s band. Senior Airman Alaina Shaw, a clarinetist with the Air Force BOGW, facilitated one of the classes. 

“The students are so on top of things and so professional,” Shaw said. “I learn as much from them as they do from me.”

This is not the first time Air Force musicians participated in the Rose Parade; several musicians have performed in multiple parades. Master Sgt. Jeffrey Zelinka, a clarinetist from the Air National Guard Band of the West Coast, performed in his fourth Rose Parade.

“This parade is like no other in the world,” Zelinka said. “It’s six miles of screaming and applauding with stadium seating and just a thrill to be on the streets in this parade.” 

The Rose Parade is seen by more than 50 million people in the U.S. and televised in 210 countries and territories.