The Air Force’s Heartland of America Band provides one of the Midlands’ premier Christmastime experiences, so news that the group faces some changes due to a tight military budget is tough to hear.
There is reason to hope, however, that the annual concert, sponsored by The World-Herald for the last 26 holiday seasons, will continue, albeit with some changes.
By all accounts, this year’s performance at the Holland Performing Arts Center was up to the usual stirring standards of the 45-member band and the eight smaller ensembles that shared the stage.
Military budget cuts announced in March are expected to shrink the Heartland of America Band’s strength to 15 members by next September. But “I’m hopeful it’s not the last (concert in Omaha),” said Chief Master Sgt. Richard “Monty” Beshears. “This is an important event to the community. We’re hopeful of continuing our relationship.”
Officials have said that the military’s bands are effective recruiting and public relations tools. But questions about spending on the bands, which have a budget of $388 million in 2012, have been raised in recent years.
Omahans and thousands of other Midlands residents would be sorry to see the annual tradition of the Heartland of America Band’s holiday concert fade away completely. We are confident that if the Air Force tradition continues, even as a smaller musical group, its standard of excellence and its ability to enchant and inspire its audiences will remain unchanged.