Those looking to get patriotic and kick off their Independence Day weekend a little early are in luck: the Air National Guard Band of the South will play four short shows on the aircraft carrier Yorktown July 1.
If you go
What: Air National Guard Band of the South performances
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 1
Where: Aboard the aircraft carrier Yorktown
Admission: Free with purchase of Patriots Point ticket ($20 for adults and $12 for children ages 6-11)
The 40 National Guard members will play 15-20 minute shows from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Patriots Point, with time between performances to mingle with the audience, according to the band's superintendent, Senior Master Sgt. Brent Whitaker.
"We're kind of like the official handshake of the Air Force," Whitaker said. "It's hard for folks to get a one-on-one with fighter pilots, but they can come up to us. Music is a universal language, and it's a connection from the military to the civilian world."
The band, based at McGhee-Tyson Air National Guard Base near Knoxville, Tenn., will perform in Virginia Beach, Va., and Panama City Beach, Fla., in addition to Charleston as part of its summer concert series.
"We try to go to places where we can catch people from all over, since a lot of people are on vacation," said Whitaker. "That gives them the chance to go home and talk about what they've seen."
The Band of the South plays everything from patriotic tunes to jazz to current rock hits. It is a traditional National Guard unit in that its members have civilian jobs, according to Tech. Sgt. Lori Reeves.
"They meet one weekend per month to practice or perform - they drill like any other unit," she said.
The band tours and plays at special occasions, but also travels overseas, said Whitaker.
"We work with military support and troop morale, but when we're over there, we're more than just ambassadors," he said. "We demonstrate to the civilians in these countries the humanity of our military, which, believe it or not, makes a huge difference."