If you’re a middle school or high school student wondering whether a career in music might be a good fit, we have great news for you!  For the next few weeks, our Musician Intern Team will be interviewing individuals with different careers involving music, from commercial film scorers to scientific researchers. Articles about these interviews will be posted on our website each week to help you explore different careers and pathways in music. 

This week, Musician Intern and TYS cellist Callista Holleschak interviewed Christine Lightner, a member of the Air Force Band.

Have you ever heard of the Air Force Band or realized its big impact in the community and US government? Originally, I had never heard of such an ensemble. I have always been incredibly fascinated with aviation and flight, but I had never thought how my passion for cello could translate to an aviation focused career. My internship with the Philharmonic Association gave me a chance to meet and interview Christine Lightner, a cellist in the Air Force Band and learn all about a career in such an important musical ensemble.

For Ms. Lightner, her career in the Air Force Band is all about playing the music that she loves in an ensemble with other talented musicians.  She gets to spend her day learning new pieces of music from a variety of genres to perform at many events. Ms. Lightner’s career has allowed her to travel the world, sharing her love of music with young aspiring musicians and making beautiful musical memories.

Ms. Lightner started playing piano originally, but when she entered elementary school, which had an orchestra program, she decided to play the cello. Because of this opportunity early in life to get exposed to strings and orchestral music, she found the instrument that fit her perfectly which she has continued to play through her career: the cello.  Ms. Lightner knew she wanted to be a professional cellist for her career, and after auditioning for a variety of ensembles, she got a job for the Air Force Band.

The Air Force Band plays a tremendous role not only in playing music for large events such as presidential inaugurations, but also in helping to educate the community about music and playing at various smaller diplomatic events. Ms. Lightner loves her job at the Air Force Band because it allows her to be able to share her passion for music with students around the community as the Band has many events geared towards community outreach. 

One facet of a job in the Air Force Band that I was unaware of until my interview was that the Air Force Band plays a major role in diplomatic efforts for the United States. Ms. Lightner has toured many different countries and performed for local communities in order to help bolster diplomatic relations between the United States and those countries. She also plays a big role in helping to set the mood of diplomatic meetings. The Air Force Band members oftentimes go to various foreign dignitaries homes and play music during dinner parties with United States officials in order to help set the stage for a  smooth and successful meeting.  Ms. Lightner enjoys playing special folksongs from various foreign dignitaries countries because it helps to create a sense of welcome and convey an idea of unity.

When I asked about Ms. Lightner’s favorite memory with the Air Force Band, she recounted the time when she played at Former President Obama’s first inauguration.  Not only did she get the opportunity to share her passion for cello by performing for the new President of the United States and the whole country which was watching, but she also got to enjoy the grand event as a whole, meet many celebrities and other performers, and help do her part to serve the country that she loves. 

To conclude the interview, I decided to ask Ms. Lighter what advice she would have for young aspiring musicians and members of the Philharmonic Association who all are united under their love for music and may wish to one day become a professional musician or musician in the Air Force Band. Ms. Lightner’s advice was one word: “Practice!” She said the thing that helped her the most was to practice extremely hard and always focus on the parts of the music that were more difficult and that she wished she would have practiced more in order to learn and become an even better cellist.  

Ultimately, the interview wasa golden opportunity because I learned so much about how music can fit into a career in the Air Force which I had never known. Ms. Lightner’s story really shows how versatile and beautiful a thing music can be in the lives of everyone.