‘Wild Blue Country’ Performs Free Concert in Laramie on Sunday
LARAMIE -- Wild Blue Country is the United States Air Force Academy's commercial band of active-duty airmen musicians whose mission is to support the Air Force, and its Academy, both stateside and abroad. Wild Blue Country has been featured on ABC's "Good Morning America," Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends," the Grand Ole Opry and many other national television and radio broadcasts.
The free family concert is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, July 21, at the Edgar J. Lewis Bandshell at Washington Park in Laramie.
“We love it there. I think this is our 4th year in a row. It’s always a great turnout, great people, and it’s always fun saying hi after the show. We’re looking forward to another year,” said Sr. Airman Mike Coletti, the group's drummer.
Using the power of music, these full-time active-duty airmen are committed to serving the cadets at the Air Force Academy, deploying overseas to support the welfare of our troops, and innovatively telling the Air Force story in communities throughout the world.
“Wild Blue Country is one of the many small groups that are part of the entire Air Force Academy band. We have 60 members, professional musicians, in our unit, and Wild Blue Country is six of them. The band itself has been around since the mid-’70s. What’s cool about this job, is that Wild Blue Country is always the same band, but the personnel may change in any given year. Just as you would in any active duty position in the military, you may move to another location. When that happens, then we lose, let’s say, a bass player. We would then gain a different bass player. So the personnel is constantly changing, but we make the most of it and we spin up those new musicians as fast as possible so that we can continue with our mission,” Coletti said.
There are six members of Wild Blue Country. Master Sgt. Jeff Valentine plays steel guitar and is the group’s musical director.
“He runs the rehearsals, decides what we play, and runs the whole ship musically,” said Coletti.
The groups Audio Engineer is Tech Sgt. Paul McWhirter.
“Without him, we’re really nothing. He does everything for us in rehearsals, controls all the sound, and we are grateful for his expertise,” Coletti said.
On guitar is Tech Sgt. Jesse Thompson, the NCO, who is “the boss man of everything.”
Relatively new to the band is their bass player, A1C Dominic Sbrega.
The brand new Vocalist is A1C Julie Keough-Mishler.
“We like to play the classics, John Denver tunes, and what I call modern classics, like Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert. But we also do some good, popular tunes. It’s not all country,” Keough-Mishler said.
She said the band finishes with an Armed Services medley that honors our Veterans and their families.
The members of Wild Blue Country take their mission with the Air Force seriously.
“We like to say that we have two missions: an admissions mission, which is where we visit other parts of the country . . . and bring awareness to the Academy. It’s an opportunity for students who really have no idea what it is, to see the potential for free education, a bachelor’s of science, and when you’re done, a guaranteed job. The other mission is community relations. That’s really one of our favorites because it’s a chance for us to go into communities like Laramie, and put on a free concert, show up in uniform, and say, ‘thank you for your support, from your military.’”