It’s great to be part of a singing wing!

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj.) Don Bretz
  • 71st Flying Training Wing chaplain
Music has an incredible capacity to stir our emotions, build cohesion, and enhance our memory. Furthermore, singing as a group involves issues of harmony, leadership, timing, being in tune and the need for practice. It's great to be a part of a singing wing! 

As a chaplain, I believe our souls respond to music. I have watched hardened warriors go through a military funeral seemingly emotionless until the playing of taps. Music has the capacity to move us when words fail. 

Countless times I have watched folks sing the Air Force Song and get animated repeating the phrase "give 'er the gun!" Whether it's the solemnity of the Navy or Air Force hymns or the nudging bugle call at 7 a.m., music engages our souls. 

One of my favorite World War II movies is an old black and white film - "Twelve O'clock High." Music drew WWII Airmen together. Some military units even had their own song. I served with the 2nd Armored Division, and we had our own march -- hearkening back to the unit's WWII days. It was our march. Our service songs connect us to each other and they also connect us to veterans who have served before us. 

Singing also enhances our memory. My wife teaches 3- and 4-year olds and one of the methods she uses is music. She seems to have a song for everything. I wonder how many of us used songs to help us remember our ABCs or basic life lessons? 

It's great to be a part of a singing wing. Singing stirs us, connects us, and helps us learn. 

Music, in general, and singing, in particular, also teaches us about harmony, leadership, timing, being in tune and the need for practice. 

There is a difference between doing a solo piece and participating in a larger group. Consider the singing of the national anthem -- a soloist singing without accompaniment has incredible latitude for improvisation. However, when singing or playing music as part of a group, one needs to be on the same sheet of music. 

Harmony still allows for individual differences -- yet there is accountability to the whole piece. Harmony is a reminder that "It's not all about me." Harmony requires a sense of sacrifice and balance. 

Leadership is an important element in music. I love music and singing but I cannot look at a piece of music and instantly know how to play or sing it. I am thankful for those who are more talented and can anchor the parts for folks like me. 

I am also thankful for talented, patient directors who can offer wisdom that eventually culminates in a blessing. In life we are blessed to have those who graciously lead us to the common good, even if it means being honest about our capabilities. 

Music, as with many things in life, involves timing. Like the beating of our hearts, music is dependent upon a rhythm. In our chapel's praise band, we sound much better when we have a drummer keeping the beat for us. If you have ever sung a round such as "Row, row, row your boat," you know something of the importance of timing. Precision involves timing - in music as well as in the delivery of support. 

When I pick up my guitar, the first thing I do is check to see if it is in tune. There are standards in music as in life. It matters if your A-string is really tuned to A or not. It matters if you follow the Air Force Core Values or not. 

Not only do we need to be in tune individually, we need to ensure that we are in tune with each other. Before an orchestra or band begins, they get in tune together. Singing and music reminds us of the importance of being in tune. 

There's an old saying -- practice makes perfect. Almost every day I take time to practice playing an instrument. Each one is unique; each requires its own techniques to produce good music. Good musicianship, good singing - good flying as well as any other activity takes practice. 

Music and singing are important and they teach us loads about life. Perhaps that's why schools still teach music. Perhaps that's why it's great to be a part of a singing wing.