Northampton Area HS grad conducts Singing Sergeants
Air Force Technical Sergeant Taylor Armstrong, a Northampton Area High School graduate, conducts the The Singing Sergeants, official chorus of the United States Air Force.
The Singing Sergeants will perform patriotic tunes and beloved classics, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23, St. John’s Lutheran Evangelical Church, 37 S. Fifth St., Allentown.
The Singing Sergeants were originally a men’s chorus when founded in 1945 from the rank and file of the Army Air Forces Band, and became the first military chorus to include female members in 1973. There are 23 in the Sergeants ensemble.
“My family has a lot of roots in Bethlehem,” says Armstrong in a phone interview.
“My grandfather taught at Liberty High School for many decades. I was born in Bethlehem. My parents quickly moved out, just north of Bath, to the country, to Moore Township, where I grew up and went to school [in Northampton Area School District].
“I still have many family members in the Lehigh Valley and come home a few times a year to see them.
“Some of my first vocal lessons were with a teacher at Moravian College, as well, so I knew some of the faculty there in the late-’90s. It’s a great campus, nice town.”
After receiving a Bachelor of Music in voice performance from Susquehanna University, Armstrong received a Master of Music and a Graduate Performance Diploma in voice from Peabody Conservatory, Baltimore, Md. At Peabody, he received the George Woodhead Prize, and the Douglas and Hilda Perl Goodwin Endowed Scholarship for Opera.
“I discovered that our nation’s military had some pretty wonderful music ensembles and from time to time there were openings.
“I kept my eye on that as my career in my 20s continued and then eventually I was married and took an audition in 2005 when there was a tenor opening. I was the one selected for the job,” says Armstrong.
In addition to singing with and conducting the Singing Sergeants, Armstrong has performed as a soloist with the Baltimore Opera Company, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Handel Choir of Baltimore, Baltimore Chamber Symphony, Annapolis Opera, and the Summer Opera Theater, Washington, D.C.
Armstrong says there are differences performing with a military-associated ensemble. compared to civilian music groups.
“There are many common things, like working on music, but the main difference is that once you decide to serve in one of the bands in any part of the military you become Airmen musicians.
“We’re active duty, full-time members of the Air Force, representing the Air Force at all times. So that becomes a priority certainly in how we present ourselves, the kind of repertoire, and the way that we reach out to all Americans, civilian audiences and military audiences,” Armstrong says.
“We are part of the modern-day public-relations branch of the military. We’re representing the many hundreds of thousands of the servicemen and women who are out there that the civilians don’t necessarily get to see on a regular basis, kind of making that connection.”
The Allentown concert, part of the Arts at St. John’s series at the church, is expected to include works by American composers, contemporary music, American folk songs, spirituals and patriotic standards.
“I’m the enlisted conductor for the group so I get to stand in front and guide as a conductor for many of our performances. That, in and of itself, is a very humbling seat to be in. I get to hear the sound from the front of the ensemble.
“Certainly, whenever we get started with the National Anthem, that’s often for our audiences a moment of pride. The patriotic music can be the moments in the program when we’re doing our job: to inspire the patriotism in audiences.
“Hearing the National Anthem at the beginning of our concerts is often how we make that initial impression that begins a process of communicating with people,” says Armstrong.
The goal to communicate and touch the American people with excellent music is accomplished by cooperation and hard work.
“Everyone is very well-trained and they’re all at the very top of their game. It makes things much easier to accomplish musically when the learning the music isn’t as hard as it can be with outside ensembles. Everybody works hard to get where they’ve gotten to,” Armstrong says.
“Music brings people together and it’s nice to be able to be a professional musical and to see that happen. I feel fortunate in that way.”
Tickets are free but must be reserved at: stjohnsallentown.org, or by 610-435-1641. Tickets can be printed from the internet. For those calling for reservations, tickets will be available at the door.