Mt. Carmel grad to perform in Air Force concert
By Emily Sorensen
There will be a local voice among those singing and performing in the free United States Air Force Concert Band and Singing Sergeants concert, being held 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19 at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts, 15498 Espola Road.
Tech. Sgt. Ben Park, who graduated from Mt. Carmel High School in 1997, is a member of the Singing Sergeants, the United States Air Force’s official choir. Growing up in Rancho Penasquitos, Park said he had no idea he’d one day be singing for a living, let alone singing in the military.
Initially majoring in engineering at UC Berkeley, Park ended up double-majoring in music as well, earning a Bachelor of Arts in music with honors in 2002 from the university. “I unexpectedly decided to make music a part of my life,” said Park. While at UC Berkeley, Park won the Eisner Prize in Music for Voice and was awarded a University of California Regents Scholarship. He also studied at the Konservatorium der Stadt Wien, a private music conservatory in Vienna, Austria.
Following his graduation, Park pursued graduate work at the Peabody Conservatory, where he earned a Master of Music in 2005 and a Graduate Performance Diploma in Opera in 2006. While at Peabody, he earned the George Woodhead Prize for voice and a Peabody Merit Scholarship.
It was during his time at Peabody that his future in the military came calling. “Somebody from the [Singing Sergeants] group heard me perform and asked me to audition,” said Park. Park enlisted in the United States Air Force in 2007, and has been serving with the Singing Sergeants ever since. In addition to singing, Park also is the staff arranger of music for his unit, and handles some of the financial matters for the group as well. “I do all sorts of collateral duties in my unit,” said Park.
The concert in Poway is part of the Singing Sergeants’ West Coast tour, which begins in San Francisco and ends in Arizona. The group tours twice a year to different parts of the country, for about two to three weeks at a time. Park said it was due to the involvement of Nancy Gray, his former choir director at MCHS who is sponsoring the concert, that they were able to arrange for the Singing Sergeants to stop in Poway for a performance as they toured.
The concert will feature the Singing Sergeants Broadway program. The first half of the concert will be mostly instrumental symphonic pieces from the United States Air Force Concert Band, with some solos by Park, and the second half will revolve around the Singing Sergeants singing Broadway songs. The concert is also a nice homecoming for Park, who said that it will be his first opportunity to perform in his hometown since he enlisted.
For Park, who is based in Washington D.C., said he mostly performs for dignitaries and politicians, it’s a nice change to perform for the public. “I’m honored and privileged to serve my country with my music and education,” said Park. “It’s priceless to impact the entire nation with my music and words.”
Admission to the concert is free, but free tickets must be picked up at Poway High School, 15500 Espola Road, between 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday – Friday. No reserved seats, first come first served.
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