Symphony seeks musicians of all stripes, bars or eagles

by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs

7/22/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala.  -- A concert can be an awe-inspiring experience, both for the musicians and the audience.

"Music draws communities together, music inspires as well as feeds the soul," said Col. Timothy O'Brien, commander of the 168th Air Refueling Wing at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

O'Brien and Col. Stella Smith, commander of the 552nd Maintenance Group at Tinker AFB, Okla., were members of the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra while stationed at Maxwell.

"In 1994, I was a captain stationed at Gunter and was fortunate enough to audition for and be accepted into the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra," said Smith. "Participating in the MSO for two-and-a-half seasons was the highlight of my assignment."

Music is a way Airmen and their families can volunteer, develop their talents and connect with the community.

"We want (service members) to come and play and have a good time," said Helen Steineker, the symphony's executive director. "We are all here to have a great time and play some good music."

She invites those with orchestral instrument experience to contact her about rehearsals Aug. 1.

This season kicks off with "Broadway under the Stars" Sept. 15 and continues with seven performances featuring a mix of classical and popular music.

Steineker is proud to feature Airmen in previous symphonies. "Some of the greatest players we have had have been from the military community," she said.
The Airmen value this experience as well.

"When I arrived at Maxwell in 2009, I dove into my job as commandant of (Officer Training School), yet I also wanted to continue my interest in music," said O'Brien. "The Montgomery Symphony was one of my connections to the community that also fulfilled my desire to be part of something larger than myself."

O'Brien is a classically trained musician who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in woodwind performance.

"A distinctive highlight for me was the opportunity to perform with the orchestra as part of a trio of solo bassoonists in last year's holiday concert at the (Montgomery Performing Arts Centre)," he said.

Smith said she enjoyed performing with the symphony so much she auditioned again in 2009 while attending Air War College.

"(I) was lucky enough to regain my seat in the second violin section," Smith said. "When I told people in my class that I was playing in the symphony, several said they wished they had known about the opportunity."

The symphony provides Airmen more than just an opportunity to play instruments. They connect with the community and inspire future musicians.

"It gave me an opportunity to meet people from the community as well as interact with other talented military members and spouses," said Smith. "I also really enjoyed participating in the educational concerts for the elementary students."

Military members and their families can take advantage of this chance to meet new people with similar interests.

"It is difficult to be new to a community and quickly find opportunities to make new friends and perform musically," O'Brien said. "From young adults to aging colonels, the Montgomery Symphony recognizes all with the drive, energy, dedication and talent to practice their passion for music."

For information on joining the orchestra, call 240-4004 or email