Technical Sergeant Emanuel Jester III, tuba, is a native of Orlando, Florida. He studied at the University of South Florida in Tampa. During his high school and college tenures, Sergeant Jester performed with various groups at Walt Disney World. In 1999, He won the Florida Orchestra Young Artist Competition. He has also performed with The Florida Orchestra, Florida West Coast Symphony, Brass Band of Central Florida, San Antonio Symphony and Sam Rivers Jazz Orchestra. His teachers include Willie Clark, Jay Hunsburger, David Kirk, Pat Sheridan and Gail Robertson. Sergeant Jester joined the USAF Band of the West in 2002. He then joined the USAF Academy Band in 2007 and performs with the Concert Band, Marching Band and Stellar Brass.
EJ: My musical influences are truly from all over the place. Since my parents grew up in the 70’s, I heard a lot of music from artist like Earth, Wind and Fire, Cool and the Gang, and Parliament Funkadelic. Having grown up when MTV, VH1, and, occasionally, PBS were the norm in the 80’s, I listened, watched, and enjoyed almost every style of music. It was not unusual to hear me hum Billy Idol one minute, and Bach the next.
EJ: Outside of the church choir, only occasionally. Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear live music growing up due to the usual constraints of a working class family. There was plenty to see and here in the Orlando area, but I simply didn’t have the means to get there. I can say with honesty and humor that the first live concert I went to see was MC Hammer back in the late 80’s.
EJ: Outside of a few family members that sang in the church choir, I didn’t have a “musical” family. However, there was always an appreciation for it, and it was always playing in the house either on the radio or the TV. I started making noise late in Elementary School, and really began playing in Middle School band. At the time, I started out playing trombone while simultaneously borrowing my friend’s euphonium to teach myself that as well. During my first year of high school, I added bass trombone to my arsenal and played it in the jazz band in addition to trombone and euphonium. It wasn’t until I turned 15, that I started playing tuba because there was a shortage in the marching band. It came it me naturally, and since I had a lot more opportunities open up for me playing the tuba, I stuck with it.
EJ: Willie Clark, Gail Robertson, and Jay Hunsberger. I can’t think of any one thing I specifically learned from each of them, but they were incredible motivators and great examples in different ways. For example, I learned a great deal about music business, musical versatility, and arranging from Willie and Gail, and musicianship, endurance training (i.e. Rochut: buzzed, played down 1 & 2 octaves), and music literature from Jay. All of those skills helped tremendously in not only getting the gig, but also helping groups within the organization move in certain directions.
EJ: University of South Florida and Walt Disney World.
I mention Disney because I started gigging there seasonally shortly after I started playing tuba (a huge opportunity that opened up as mentioned earlier) and continued sporadically for almost nine years. Being in the presence of so many great musicians that were there at the time (i.e. Mike Roylance, Chris Olka, Keith Oshiro, etc), I learned so much about music and people just by sitting in the break room between sets.
EJ: 1) A steady paycheck and benefits. 2) I’ve always enjoyed playing in wind bands more than playing in orchestras. 3) All the travel that military bands get to do on a regular basis (both good AND bad).
EJ: Currently, our band goes on tour 5 times a year. That includes 3 concert band tours, and 2 small group tours (brass/woodwind quintet, jazz band, etc). Additionally, if another Air Force band is going on tour and they need additional players, we are afforded the opportunity to tour with them if we’re available.
EJ: I started auditioning in 2000. I took several auditions before I landed the gig with the USAF Band of the West in San Antonio in October 2002.
EJ: A typical day for me includes some gym time (yes, there is time built into the schedule for physical fitness), rehearsal time (individual or group), and some time at my desk. The amount of time spent on those can fluctuate from day to day depending on what’s on the schedule.
SM: Some of the readers may not be familiar with differences between the United States Air Force Academy Band and the United States Air Force Band. Could you explain the difference and what duties may differ from one ensemble to the other?
EJ: On the surface, there really is no difference; however, when you dig deeper, there are differences between the two organizations. The USAF Band in Washington D.C. is now the only premier band in the US Air Force. The USAF Academy Band was reclassified as a regional band in October 2010. What this means is that the D.C. Band personnel do not get reassigned to other bands like other bandsmen across the career field do. Additionally, the groups in the D.C. band function autonomously whereas most of our groups come out of the concert band. What I mean by that is the D.C Band has enough personnel to support a concert band, ceremonial band and jazz band independent of each other whereas Academy Band personnel will play in several groups to include the concert band, ceremonial band, and various other small groups. Because of this, members of the Academy Band and other regional bands are expected to be much more versatile than members of the D.C. Band. That’s not to say that the musicians in that band aren’t versatile (because they very much are), but our duties more frequently require us to perform outside of what we like to do. For example, our euphonium player may play euphonium in concert band, trombone with the jazz band, and sousaphone with the marching band all in one week.
EJ: I’ve found myself thinking more like a rhythm section player by getting off the written music and playing more by ear. For example, our brass quintet plays more music from Sting, Tito Puente, Led Zeppelin and Queen than we play music actually written for brass quintet.
EJ: I actually have two favorites: A chorale work called “Alleluia” by Randall Thompson that was arranged for brass quintet by our percussionist, Tim Blake, and First Suite in E flat by Gustav Holst.
EJ: I can’t think of a piece that I’ve played that I haven’t enjoyed in some way, shape, or form…including the Glee Medley the band just did for July 4th.
EJ: Be musically and mentally flexible. Also, talk to members in a military band and ask them what it’s like. A lot of things have changed over the years that you may not be aware of (i.e. band deployments).
EJ: Brass Band. There’s a local brass band here that I’ve checked out, but haven’t had the time to really play with.
EJ: Some bands have a standard make/model, but we don’t. I play on a Yamaha 822 F Tuba, Meinl Weston 6450/2 CC Tuba, and a King 2360 Sousaphone.