Building international partners through music

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Jenn Pagnard
  • U.S. Air Force Band
This week, the U.S. Air Force Band welcomed international guest conductor Capt. Abiodoun Patrick Odjo from the Republic of Benin.
Captain Odjo is the commander of the Music Squadron and Mobile Squadron for the National Gendarmerie in Benin. Prior to this position, he served as the commander of the Fourth Platoon, which supports security for the U.S. Ambassador's residence.

Odjo has been a member of the national gendarmerie since 1996. From 1999 to 2003, he attended noncommissioned officer training. Throughout his career, he has completed cadet training, as well as many other training courses including technical intervention and advanced gendarmerie training. Odjo was also involved in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Cote d'Ivoire in 2009.

He conducted the Concert Band in performances on Fri., July 20 at the Air Force Memorial, Mon., July 23 at the Bowie Center for Performing Arts in Bowie, Md., and Tues., July 24 on the west steps of the Capitol Building.

The theme for these concerts was "An International Celebration." The program featured works by Britten and Wagner, as well as selections from Benin conducted by Odjo. In the second half of the concert, the talents of the Singing Sergeants were highlighted in an opera medley.

Col. Larry Lang, the commander and conductor of the Band, spoke highly of this international collaboration. "This has been a very interesting and exciting exchange with Captain Odjo. It's also been a wonderful international relationship-building opportunity for the Air Force."

Members of the Band's officer staff accompanied Odjo to the Benin embassy to meet with Defense Attaché, Col. Pascal Tawes. Maj. Scott Guidry, the Band's director of operations, said, "It was clear throughout the meeting that Col. Tawes knows well the value of music as an international language, and the benefits of bringing two cultures together on a small level as a model for diplomacy on a much larger scale."

In August, The Air Force Band will host an international guest conductor from Ghana, Col. Sampson Paa-Kwesi Ebonyi who is the director of music and bands of the Ghana Armed Forces.