Heritage Winds, a chamber group of the United States Air Force Heritage of America Band, will play six free concerts across Maine and New Hampshire next week. The first concert is Friday, Oct. 22 at the Freeport Performing Arts Center, followed by a show Saturday, Oct. 23 at The Opera House of Boothbay Harbor. Heritage Winds will return to Maine on Wednesday, Oct. 27 to perform at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland. Audiences for these upcoming shows can expect a wide array of musical styles that will create an engaging and unforgettable experience for people of all ages.

Playing music is a full-time job in the military. Almost all branches maintain professional ensembles at home and overseas. Between many types of ceremonies, local events near their bases and tours like this one to connect with different American communities, the musicians of Heritage Winds dedicate their skills to inspiring patriotism, honoring veterans and telling the Air Force story to recruit those who want to serve the nation.

Heritage Winds is a “dectet” or ten-piece chamber group. The instruments include two bassoons, two clarinets, two flutes and two French horns, two oboes, along with a percussionist and conductor to keep time. Technical Sergeant Kelly Longmire is one of the oboe players. Oboists have a special role in an orchestra, playing the A-note that the other musicians tune to as they arrive on stage.

The musicians in the USAF Heritage of America Band came to their positions in different ways. Longmire applied soon after she graduated the Hartt School of Music in Connecticut with a master’s degree. “I didn’t have any military connections,” she said. “I was just looking at job openings and thought, ‘Huh, that sounds interesting.’” After going through a process that is similar to an orchestral audition, she completed basic training. “We have people in Heritage Winds who have been in for almost 20 years and rank up to Master Sergeant and then Airmen First Class who have been in for two months,” said Longmire.

In addition to the patriotic compositions they have planned, Longmire’s favorite pieces in this program are Beethoven’s Octet for Winds, Opus 103 and a jazz interlude with vocals by her fellow oboist, Grace Huntoon, TSgt.

Longmire is excited to visit New England while on the group’s first tour since the COVID-19 pandemic began. “We bring the skills of this band around the country to honor those who have served,” she said. “To be able to play music, do what I love and be able to serve my country this way, it’s just a dream come true.”