The U.S. Air Force Heartland of America Band Vortex swirls into town for a free live concert performance at 7 p.m. Friday at Brickyard Park.
Sponsored by the Hastings Tribune, the concert will include a wide array of musical styles — including rock, funk, jazz, blues, soul, swing, country, and the latest pop hits — performed with a twist by a 12-piece band of top-rate musicians stationed at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha.
One of four Air Force groups from Offutt, the musicians perform across the state and beyond at various venues, including military bases around the globe.
Their mission: Stirring up interest and patriotism with each lively appearance.
Tech. Sgt. Dan Bragdon has performed with Heartland of America bands for 14 years. A musician since age 10, the 38-year-old multi-instrumentalist — who sings and plays piano, guitar, drums, bass and percussion — was recruited by band members while playing in a civilian classic rock and blues band while stationed in Minot, N.D., in 2004.
“I got heard by members of the band at Offutt and they offered me a job,” he said. “They grabbed me and I was able to turn that into my job.”
An airman since late 2000, he joined the Air Force after earning his bachelor’s degree in music at the University of Maine in 1999.
Now a husband and father, the former school teacher said he fully expected to serve a military stint at some point but never imagined it would become his everyday job.
“The military was a big part of my family history,” Bragdon said. “My dad, grandfathers and uncles are veterans, so it’s just kind of something we’ve always done. When I joined, I thought I was going to come in, do some service and help pay off my student loans. I just never left.”
Fourteen years later, he still envisions a long and satisfying Air Force career in his future. Among his many hats worn are musician, publicist and vehicle transportation coordinator. There are few lulls in his daily routine.
“In a squadron of 13-14 people, everybody has to work above their pay grade a little bit,” he said.
Of the lot, his role as musician outranks them all in terms of job satisfaction, Bragdon said.
“I love my job,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity. Being a musician is not always the most stable occupation — there are ups and downs — but with this you get the benefits of being in the Air Force.”
A native of Bangor, Maine, Bragdon has performed in Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and other venues around the world.
As a member of Vortex, he’ll be holding down piano and vocal duties in Hastings. The band will remain on tour in Nebraska through Aug. 20, with stops in Kearney on Thursday and Minden on Saturday.
“We play a very diverse show,” Bragdon said. “Audience members should leave feeling very proud of their country and have a good time. We want them to have a sense of pride in their country and military.”