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Senior Airman James Hubbard plays a solo during a performance by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe jazz band at the Odessa Philharmonic in Odessa, Ukraine, March 26, 2017.  The ensemble played for a standing-room crowd of more than 1,000.
Senior Airman James Hubbard plays a solo during a performance by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe jazz band at the Odessa Philharmonic in Odessa, Ukraine, March 26, 2017. The ensemble played for a standing-room crowd of more than 1,000. (Alexander Griffin/U.S. Air Force)
Senior Airman James Hubbard plays a solo during a performance by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe jazz band at the Odessa Philharmonic in Odessa, Ukraine, March 26, 2017.  The ensemble played for a standing-room crowd of more than 1,000.
Senior Airman James Hubbard plays a solo during a performance by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe jazz band at the Odessa Philharmonic in Odessa, Ukraine, March 26, 2017. The ensemble played for a standing-room crowd of more than 1,000. (Alexander Griffin/U.S. Air Force)
Master Sgt. Dave Dell stands with two residents of Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine, after the U.S. Air Forces in Europe jazz band performance, March 25, 2017. The band's tour of Ukraine ends April 2.
Master Sgt. Dave Dell stands with two residents of Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine, after the U.S. Air Forces in Europe jazz band performance, March 25, 2017. The band's tour of Ukraine ends April 2. (Alexander Griffin/U.S. Air Force)
Staff Sgt. Brian Connelly plays a saxophone solo during a performance at the Kropyvnytskyi Aviation Academy in Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine, March 25, 2017. U.S. Air Forces in Europe's jazz band played for nearly 600 people at the civilian flight school.
Staff Sgt. Brian Connelly plays a saxophone solo during a performance at the Kropyvnytskyi Aviation Academy in Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine, March 25, 2017. U.S. Air Forces in Europe's jazz band played for nearly 600 people at the civilian flight school. (Alexander Griffin/U.S. Air Force)
Local swing dancers perform before a concert by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe jazz band, Odessa, Ukraine, March 26, 2017. The band's performance drew nearly 1,000 people.
Local swing dancers perform before a concert by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe jazz band, Odessa, Ukraine, March 26, 2017. The band's performance drew nearly 1,000 people. (Alexander Griffin/U.S. Air Force)
Local swing dancers perform before a concert by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe jazz band, Odessa, Ukraine, March 26, 2017. The band's performance drew nearly 1,000 people.
Local swing dancers perform before a concert by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe jazz band, Odessa, Ukraine, March 26, 2017. The band's performance drew nearly 1,000 people. (Alexander Griffin/U.S. Air Force)
The USAFE jazz band, based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, warms up inside the Kropyvnytskyi Flight Academy concert hall in Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine, March 25, 2017. The band, which visited the country to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between Kiev and Washington, played for nearly 600 people
The USAFE jazz band, based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, warms up inside the Kropyvnytskyi Flight Academy concert hall in Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine, March 25, 2017. The band, which visited the country to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between Kiev and Washington, played for nearly 600 people (Alexander Griffin/U.S. Air Force)

The U.S. Air Forces in Europe jazz band is wrapping up a 10-day tour of Ukraine to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between Washington and Kiev.

The 14-member band, on its first trip to Ukraine since 2011, played large concerts in Odessa and Kiev and outreach events in surrounding communities. The group was invited by the U.S. Embassy in Kiev and orchestras there and in Odessa.

“The Ukrainians have a deep appreciation for culture, and the American jazz that we’ve been performing while on tour has been very well-received,” Lt. Col. Don Schofield, USAFE band commander and conductor, said Thursday. “Our goal is to continue to build trust and respect through that people-to-people diplomacy.”

The Ambassadors, as the group is known, returns home to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Sunday. One of its best receptions was at the Aviation Academy in Kropyvnytskyi before a crowd of more than 600. The school trains pilots, air crews and air traffic controllers.

Before taking the stage, the airmen were treated to folk music and baked goods from Ukrainians wearing traditional dress. After the show, students from the academy invited band members to a spontaneous jam session.

“We just started playing music together, and it was really fun,” saxophonist Staff Sgt. Brian Connelly said. “We were able to connect directly through music.”

Connelly added that they used the universal love of music to bridge differences with Ukrainians who may have never met Americans before.

“We were able to cut right through the cultural barriers and immediately share our energy and our commitment through music,” Connelly said.

During a small speaking engagement in Odessa band members fielded questions about their careers and American life.

“They started asking us questions, like where do we shop and did we know about the Gap, because one had just opened in Odessa,” Connelly said. “That was a big deal to them.”

The USAFE band conducts concert tours in 104 countries throughout Europe and Africa.

“In all of our travels we are building relationships, underscoring trust and respect and getting to know the people that we perform for,” Schofield said. “Through these concerts we were able to make contact directly with the Ukrainian people.”

Air Force bands support the service’s mission through performances for the U.S. military and at recruiting and community relations events.

The USAFE Band traces its origins back to 1943 at Greenwood Army Air Field, Miss., where it was activated as the 386th Army Air Forces Band.

howard.william@stripes.com

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