Air Force band leader launches farewell tour
Polk County Enterprise, May 2007
LIVINGSTON – Richard Baum may get a little blue on this tour by the Air Force band. It won’t be just his uniform, or the selections played by the jazz ensemble dubbed Dimensions in Blue. This is Baum’s final tour after 23 years as a saxophonist for the USAF band.
The senior master sergeant is the officer in charge for the Dimensions in Blue big band jazz ensemble, and he was born in the Air Force.
He was born on base while his father was stationed at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. For the next 16 years he moved around the world as his dad’s duty stations changed.
While stationed at Bossier City, Baum and his unit performed in Great Britain and he said those performances are some of his fondest performance memories.
A huge part of the Army Air Corps was stationed in Great Britain and the Air Force Band gets invited to a lot of events, Baum recalled.
“We performed at a concert hall in Wales where the London Philharmonic Orchestra records,” Baum said. “We were like deer in the headlights. This is a huge place and when the curtain came up, we were just blown away. The house was full.
“They love big band music in Great Britain because of the whole Glen Miller thing,” Baum said.
Another of Baum’s favorite recollections played out before a much smaller audience in Anchorage, Alaska.
“We unloaded our equipment from a C-130 Hercules and the crew used a snow machine with sleds to pull the equipment to the village where we were playing,” Baum said.
While the numbers were smaller, Baum said statistically it was bigger because probably the whole village showed up.
Baum has played saxophone since early childhood and earned at bachelor’s degree in music at the University of Alabama.
Baum has received numerous awards throughout his career. He was selected as Air Education and Training Command Band Senior Non-Commissioned of the Year for 2004 as well as Bandsman of the Year for 1999 while at Elmendorf.
At Barksdale, he was selected as a Distinguished Graduate of both the Non-Commissioned Office Leadership School and the Non-Commissioned Officer Preparatory Course. He has earned bachelor’s degrees in music from the University of Alabama, and business administration, management information systems, from the University of Alaska, Anchorage.
Becoming part of the Air Force Band is much the same as earning a seat in a big symphony orchestra, Baum said.
“We hold auditions and we hire who we like. We advertise openings like other bands recruit musicians after prospects are screened and pass the musical audition they talk to a recruiter.”
Some of the other branches of the military hire some and then send them to a music school.
“We hire a musician ready to go,” Baum said.