Maj. Michael Mench – Tour of Duty with a baton
From as early as age one – it was apparent to Oakwood resident Michael Mench that music would be a major part of his life. “I vividly remember sitting on my mother’s knee at the piano,” said Mench. “I even remember the exact song she was playing - The Muffin Man.”
Fast-forward to July 2008 – countless trumpet lessons and music classes, several band teaching positions and military assignments later – Major Michael R. Mench steps in front of the Air Force Band of Flight for the first time, accepting the baton as its new Commander and Chonductor.
A native of Philadelphia, Mench didn’t start out with the intention of making music in the military. He took up trumpet in the 4th grade and played all through high school. A music scholarship helped pay part of his way through college and after completing his bachelor of music education at Southern Illinois University in 1989, Mench went on to a successful career as a public school band director in Missouri, Florida and Pennsylvania. He was also a music adjudicator, clinician and freelance trumpet player, including appearances with the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra and the Ringling Brothers Circus. He received his master’s degree (also in music education) from Florida State University in 1996.
Then in 1997 he saw an interesting article about the Air Force Band in a band director’s trade publication. “It said the band was looking for officers and conductors,” said Mench, “and that sounded very intriguing to me.” Though Mench enjoyed teaching music to younger students, he found the idea of working with “professional musicians” very appealing. So Mench applied, and after completing Officer Training School, he was assigned as Executive Officer of The United States Air Force Band of the West, stationed at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
It was during his tenure at Lackland that a pivotal moment occurred for Major Mench. “We had just performed a particularly rousing rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever,” recalled Mench. “It was at that moment I realized it was no longer about me being able to conduct professional musicians playing the world’s great music – but rather it was about bringing the message of America and the Air Force to the public through the playing of the world’s greatest music.”
His next assignment took him to Washington, DC, in 2000 for a four-year tour with the United States Air Force Band at Bolling Air Force Base. While there he performed for White House and Pentagon arrivals for Presidents George W. Bush and William Clinton, foreign heads of state and many other distinguished visitors. Mench’s final assignment before coming to Wright Patterson Air Force Base was as the Commander and Conductor of the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West, at Travis Air Force Base in California.
In his current role with The Band of Flight, Mench oversees a compliment of 40-45 professional musicians in the well known concert band as well as six smaller ensemble units. All told, these various ensembles travel nearly 100,000 miles a year, giving more than 500 performances throughout the band’s assigned geographic area of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and parts of Maryland. Appearances have included such prestigious events as the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500 parades as well as the Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival.
This extensive travel and performance schedule helps the band fulfill the first leg of its three-fold mission. “The first part of our mission is outreach,” said Mench. “Spreading the message of the Air Force through the excellence of our musicians on stage.”
Maj. Mench conducting Band of Flight.
The second mission for the band is troop morale, which includes playing for troops in the U.S. and abroad. In fact, there are currently 10 Band of Flight members deployed to an undisclosed foreign location to entertain the troops. “Our members go places the Armed Forces don’t want to send anyone else,” said Mench, “They have been gone for 60 days now, and we are very much looking forward to their return.”
The third mission for the band is historical, which includes performing at ceremonies, military functions, parades and special events such as military dinners.
When Mench and his family got the news they would be coming to the Dayton area, they immediately began looking for a place to live. “We were searching for houses from California, and we really didn’t know the area much,” said Mench. “When we finally narrowed it down to the types of house we wanted, we started looking at the schools. The Oakwood schools JUMPED off the charts. That’s what brought us to Oakwood... but now we can’t think of living anywhere else.”
Mench’s family, as you might expect, is quite a musical one. His wife Linda plays and teaches piano (an ad for her lessons appears each week in the Register). The couple’s children include Alex (age 10), who plays trombone at Harman school and also plays guitar. Nathan (age 8) tried violin when he was younger and now wants to start drums next year. Zachary (age 4) also loves to sing and take piano lessons from his mom.
Three other Oakwood residents are involved with the Band of Flight as well. Eric Knorr plays trumpet, Kristen TenWolde plays French horn and Gerald Messaros is the group’s sound engineer.
Free Band of Flight concert March 7
As part of the annual concert series at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the Band of Flight welcomes guest artists Trout Fishing in America (TFIA) on Saturday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the Modern Flight Gallery.
TFIA is the musical partnership of bassist, Keith Grimwood and guitarist, Ezra Idlet. This acoustic duo has played together for 22 years, touring throughout North America. Their music provides a mix of folk/pop and family music that is influenced by reggae, Latin, blues, jazz and classical music.
According to Band of Flight conductor Michael Mench, the concert will be very kid-friendly and fun for the whole family. “The concert will be just 90 minutes so the kids won’t be out too late,” said Mench. “We’ve also developed some custom arrangements so TFIA can play together with the Band of Flight, which will be great fun.”
Doors open at 6:30 pm, and the concert is free and open to the public. No tickets are necessary, but seating is limited to the first 1,200 people. For more information about the concert, call (937) 255-5924, or visit the band’s web page www.bandofflight.af.mil.
Notes from the edge...
‘Unable’ perfect word for any situation
It’s been a few weeks now since Capt. Sullenburger glided his plane into history on the Hudson. I don’t know about you, but I was riveted to the coverage. In the middle of an avalanche of bad news about the crooked, the inept, and the stupid, along comes a cool dude with all the right stuff who restores our belief in, well, us.
It wasn’t until the cockpit tapes were released that I realized that amid all the totally cool things Sully did, one was the coolest of all. It was simply one word he used: Unable.
At 5,000 feet his plane suddenly had no power and Sully declared an emergency. The air traffic controller gave instructions to turn left and then began listing landing options – this or that runway at La Guardia, a regional airport, or several choices in New Jersey. Instead of replying “look you idiot, I have pigeons in both engines, I can’t turn, can’t make any airport, and I’m about to land in the shoe department at Bloomingdales,” Sully simply said, “Unable.” Boom. Finished. No explanation, no argument. Then he got the job done.
I have decided that ‘unable’ is the perfect word for any situation where yes is not an option. When asked to bake 5,000 cupcakes for Booster Day you could launch into an explanation that you have 3 kids under 4, work full time, and take classes at night, or….you could simply smile nicely and say, “unable.”
The best thing about ‘unable’ is that it works for all ages. Your mother wants you to host Thanksgiving dinner and invite all the weird relatives who drink too much and fight with each other. “Unable.” Your 8-year-old begs you to let her get just one teeny tiny belly ring piercing because all-her-friends-are-doing-it-and-she’ll-just-die-if-you-say-no. “Unable.” Your 16-year-old wants to drive his new license, your car, and four friends to Cleveland for the Stinky Monkey concert. “Unable.” That’s it, game over. The worst he can do is yell that you never let him do anything and he hates you. Big deal. Being unable works. Feel free to be unable when someone asks you to run a marathon, lend them money, or chair the fundraiser for depressed cats. It’s not impolite, it’s just definite.
So thanks, Sully, for being a cool dude and a real pro. In a world that seems to abound with bad guys at the moment it is reassuring to know one who was not only professionally prepared but willing to put it all on the line to protect those who were depending on him. You taught us to say what we mean and then get the job done.
I wonder if he would be interested in running the banks.
Celebrating 70 years
Wright Memorial Library Foundation Trustees Lu Ann Stanley, Matt Lindsay and Director Ann Snively offered free cupcakes to patrons of the library last week in celebration of the library’s 70th anniversary.
‘Friends’ of Wright Library sought
Wright Library is looking for friends. Many libraries have organized groups of supporters known as “Friends of the Library” and now Wright Library does too. What does it mean to be a “Friend?” Well, some friends talk every day and get involved in whatever the other is doing. These friends of the library are most likely to use library services often and get involved in doing special projects for the library. Such projects might include decorating the library for the holidays, facilitating a coffee hour for seniors, planning a first library card party for first graders or volunteering at the annual book sale.
The best thing about being a friend of the library is that it puts you in touch with other people who also value all the things libraries represent: books, information services, popular media, centers for learning, and a place for gathering.
The cost of your annual membership entitles subscribers to attend a preview of the annual book sale. As our base of membership grows we trust other benefits will follow. Complete the Friends membership form below and your new friends will be in contact with you.
Library programs support '40 Assets'
Did you know that Wright Library offers a dozen programs each week for youth, from toddlers to teens? The goal of library programs for all ages is to encourage participants to become lifelong learners and library users. An added benefit of library programs for youth is that they contribute to Oakwood’s community-wide “40 Developmental Assets” initiative by providing creative, stimulating activities for children and teens, as well as opportunities for kids to interact with other children outside the home.
Library programs actively engage youth in learning and encourage them to read for pleasure. Story hours for toddlers and pre-schoolers incorporate early literacy skills that prepare them for school. The library even has volunteer opportunities for teens that give them a much-appreciated and very useful role in the community. Often the teens help librarians with the programs for younger children.
Youth Services Librarians are already preparing for the Summer Reading Club, which helps students maintain and develop their reading skills while school is out. Jennifer Sommer, Youth Services Coordinator at Wright Library, explains how they decide what programs to offer and when to have them, “Programs are often suggested by patrons and we frequently get new ideas at conferences about programs that have worked well at other libraries.
As much as possible, we try to have something for everyone. We try to spread the programs throughout the day at times that make sense for the target audiences.” Ann Snively, the library’s director, said, “Our strategic plan, which was developed with community input, selected creating young readers and helping students succeed in school as important goals.
This community can be very proud of the creativity, dedication, and expertise of Wright Library’s youth services staff and the programs they offer.”
10,075 participants attended 502 programs for children and teens at the library last year. Circulation of children’s books was up 10 percent. Not all of the children were Oakwood residents since Wright Library must also serve other county residents to be eligible for the state funding that makes up most of its operating budget.
For a schedule of children’s and teen’s programs at Wright Library, visit www.wrightlibrary.org and click on Events Calendar. Teachers are welcome to call the Youth Services Librarians at 294-7171 to arrange library tours and special programs for their students and to request collections of books for their classrooms.
Chaperones needed for Turn-About Dance
The High School PTO is looking for parents to volunteer as chaperones for Oakwood school dances. The next dance is the Turn-About Dance on Saturday, March 7 and
according to PTO President Sara Feldmiller, “We can’t always find parents who are willing to chaperone, and we can’t hold dances without parent support.
If you’d like to learn more about the role of chaperone and/or if you’re willing to help, please contact Stacy Silverstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 272-3571.
Mulch sale to benefit OHS Prom
Dear Oakwood Community,
The Oakwood High School class of 2009 is currently fundraising for its Prom, “This Side of Paradise.” The dance, scheduled for April 25, will take place on a riverboat on the Ohio River. With its cost estimated around $20,000, the senior class is selling Black Medallion mulch to offset the expense.
Oakwood High School students will be taking orders until March 25. Black Medallion mulch is of the highest quality, perfect for any spring garden. The cost is $4 per bag with pick up. However, if you want students to deliver your mulch to your residence, the cost will be $4.50 per bag. Pick up and delivery dates are April 6, 7, and 8. For information about the mulch, please visit the company’s website at mulchmfg.com or contact Pat Glynn at 1-800-793-2629.
If you wish to purchase mulch, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Thank you very much.
OHS Senior Class Secretary
Juniors sought for Leadership Workshop
The Oakwood Rotary Club seeks applications from Oakwood area high school juniors to attend the Rotary District 6670 Annual Leadership Workshop at the Dayton Engineers Club. The all day event will take place on March 12. The one-day session offers students from local area high schools to develop team problem solving and presentation skills in a collegial atmosphere.
The Oakwood Rotary Club will sponsor four students from the Oakwood area. Students from Oakwood attending any area High School are invited to apply.
Applications and more details about the workshop can be obtained from your High School Guidance Counselor office. You can also contact Oakwood Rotarians Chuck Roedersheimer (293-8105) for appli cations and additional information.
Information on past programs and details on this year’s event can also be found at the local Rotary District 6670 Web Site – www.rotary 6670.org. (Select RYLA tab) Applications need to be completed and turned into the Guidance Counselor officeno later than March 4, 2009. Selected students will be notified by March 9.
Rotary accepting ambassadorial scholarships
The Rotary Club of Dayton is now accepting applications for the Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship. The scholarship is for foreign study during academic year 2010-2011. Scholars act as “ambassadors of goodwill” as they study abroad in one of more than 160 countries where Rotary Clubs are located.
Students with permanent addresses in the Dayton area, or studying in
Since 1947 more than 30,000 men and women from 100 nations have studied abroad under the auspices of Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial
Contact Diane Welborn at (937) 223-4613, to request an application form.