PETERSON AFB, COLORADO – APRIL 2009: The United States Air Force (USAF) Academy Band is comprised of eleven performing ensembles that maintain a rigorous touring schedule at their home base in Colorado, throughout the nation, and abroad in support of the Air Force’s recruitment, reputation, and morale. The 45-member Concert Band being the flagship ensemble of the unit makes regular appearances on small and large stages, in front of military and civilian audiences, and in live venues and television studios. As a formal recognition of the band’s decades of entertainment and education, it earned the coveted “Colonel George S. Howard Citation of Musical Excellence for Military Concert Bands” from the John Philip Sousa Foundation in January 2009.
Not surprisingly, this keeps the band’s audio engineer and audio logistics specialist Stanley Sakamoto quite busy. Prior to this duty in Colorado, Sakamoto was stationed in Europe, California, and Japan. In this current assignment, he’s expected to deliver technically flawless productions in a variety of unpredictable situations. Sakamoto relies on Sennheiser wireless equipment to perform musically and reliably day-in and day-out.
The concert band and its derivatives, including the jazz-infused big band “Falconaires,” use up to twenty wireless channels at a given performance, all dedicated to vocals, instruments and announcements. They travel with ten Sennheiser MD 5235 handheld mics and five Sennheiser SK 5212 body-pack transmitters. At Sakamoto’s rack, fifteen channels of 3000 series receivers capture the signals and meld them with the wired world.
“One of the most important reasons for choosing Sennheiser is its rock-solid RF performance,” said Sakamoto. “We tour throughout the states on a regular basis and even abroad on occasion. Every town we roll into has a different RF situation. I have to be able to work within that, often given a minimal setup time, and know that the performance will go off without a hitch. Our professionalism reflects on the prestige of the United States armed forces.” With recent and forthcoming changes to the public/private ownership of RF bands, the engineer is glad to have the flexibility afforded by Sennheiser’s RF technology.
Sakamoto also counts on Sennheiser’s wireless fidelity to convey the emotion and strength of his vocalists. “We can’t use wired mics for two reasons,” he said. “First, there’s the aesthetic. Wired mics on the front line are kind of out of fashion. Second, we need the mobility afforded by wireless mics. However, with a full audio spectrum frequency range and state-of-the-art filters plus HiDyn companding, our Sennheiser wireless equipment sounds – to lay ears and even most professional ears – wired.”
Sakamoto was careful to specify the Sennheiser MD 5235 capsules for the handheld microphones to minimize feedback. The MD 5235 is based on Sennheiser’s e 935 microphone capsule, which uses a frequency-dependent directivity to minimize high-frequency feedback while maintaining a natural low-end response. “There are few situations that we walk into that could be described as ‘acoustically perfect’,” Sakamoto laughed. “But I still have to deliver the same high production values regardless. The audience has no sympathy for feedback. You can’t make an announcement asking them to excuse feedback because the acoustics are terrible. I also don’t want to degrade our performer’s performance due to unwanted feedback. While using 38 channels with sixteen open wireless mics on stage, the MD 5235 gives me an exceptional dynamic range and yet is amazingly robust to feedback.”
Given his success with the concert and jazz band, Sakamoto is currently pushing to have all of the other USAF Academy bands outfitted with Sennheiser wireless. The first to benefit will be the country band, “Wild Blue Country,” and the pop/rock outfit, “Blue Steel.”
ABOUT SENNHEISER Sennheiser is a world-leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. Established in 1945 in Wedemark, Germany, Sennheiser is now a global brand represented in 60 countries around the world with U.S. headquarters in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Sennheiser’s pioneering excellence in technology has rewarded the company with numerous awards and accolades including an Emmy, a Grammy, and the Scientific and Engineering Award of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
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PHOTO CAPTION Stan Sakamoto, audio engineer for The United States Air Force (USAF) Academy Band, holding a Sennheiser MD 5235 wireless, fine-tunes the audio system at the 5,000-seat Pueblo Events Center, Pueblo, Colorado just prior to the band’s performance.