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Vandenberg jives to Soulamente

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. –The band Soulamente is a five to seven member group of musicians who play a mix of genres including soul, funk, disco, classic rock and jazz at local events around the Central Coast. (Courtesy photo/ Staff Sgt. Danielle Honea)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. –The band Soulamente is a five to seven member group of musicians who play a mix of genres including soul, funk, disco, classic rock and jazz at local events around the Central Coast. (Courtesy photo/ Staff Sgt. Danielle Honea)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Master Sgt. Michael Coderre, a 9th Space Operations Squadron sensor manager, plays the bass guitar for the band Soulamente at one of their live shows. The band Soulamente is a five to seven member group of musicians who play a mix of genres including soul, funk, disco, classic rock and jazz at local events around the Central Coast. (Courtesy photo/ Staff Sgt. Danielle Honea)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Master Sgt. Michael Coderre, a 9th Space Operations Squadron sensor manager, plays the bass guitar for the band Soulamente at one of their live shows. The band Soulamente is a five to seven member group of musicians who play a mix of genres including soul, funk, disco, classic rock and jazz at local events around the Central Coast. (Courtesy photo/ Staff Sgt. Danielle Honea)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Tech. Sgt. Angel Rivera-Ortiz, the 14th Air Force NCO in charge of inspections, plays the keyboard for the band Soulamente at one of their live shows.  The band Soulamente is a five to seven member group of musicians who play a mix of genres including soul, funk, disco, classic rock and jazz at local events around the Central Coast. (Courtesy photo/ Staff Sgt. Danielle Honea)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Tech. Sgt. Angel Rivera-Ortiz, the 14th Air Force NCO in charge of inspections, plays the keyboard for the band Soulamente at one of their live shows. The band Soulamente is a five to seven member group of musicians who play a mix of genres including soul, funk, disco, classic rock and jazz at local events around the Central Coast. (Courtesy photo/ Staff Sgt. Danielle Honea)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Once a week for approximately three hours, a smooth mixture of jive-music resonates through the streets of base housing.

Muffled slightly by a garage door, the rhythms of well-known tunes range from contemporary to classic musical genres of soul, funk, disco, classic rock and jazz.

Behind the melodies echoing throughout Vandenberg is a dedicated group of musicians who call themselves Soulamente.

Two of Soulamente's band members, Master Sgt. Michael Coderre and Tech. Sgt. Angel Rivera-Ortiz, first met when they were senior airmen stationed together at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in 1998. At Beale, the Airmen formed a band and started playing music together. However, shortly after the band began to improve as a group, both musicians received assignments to different bases.

Years later, in 2004, Sergeant Coderre and Sergeant Rivera-Ortiz were once again reunited - this time at Vandenberg.

It was not long after the musicians' reunion that the idea to start another band was put in motion.

"Our band started to piece itself together through word-of-mouth and networking in the community," said Sergeant Rivera-Ortiz, the 14th Air Force NCO in charge of inspections. "We are so fortunate to have found the people we have now in the band because good musicians are hard to come by."

Now fully-manned, the band Soulamente features a guitarist, bass guitarist, saxophonist, drummer, keyboarder and three vocalists. Soulamente popularity grows with every outdoor festival, corporate party, fundraiser, concert, nightclub, wedding or private event where they play. Last year, Soulamente played at 57 events and earned the recognition of best band in Northern Santa Barbara County by the Santa Maria Sun two years in a row.

Playing at 57 shows a year and working full-time does not necessarily have to cause stress in the family, said Sergeant Rivera-Ortiz, the band's keyboarder.

"Our families support us 100 percent," Sergeant Rivera-Ortiz said. "Rehearsing once a week and playing out on the weekends is not easy because it takes away from family time, but having our families back us makes all of the difference."

As the band's fan base continues to grow, the members of Soulamente are learning the importance of service before self from the band's servicemembers. The band is aware at any moment two of their members could be required to leave the area due to their military obligations.

However, the servicemembers of Soulamente still manage to find the time for music whenever they are given the opportunity.

"Even though we are in the military, we are still fortunate and able to hold an awesome career and do exactly what we love to do in our off-duty time," said Master Sgt. Michael Coderre, a 9th Space Operations Squadron sensor manager and Soulamente's bass guitarist.

The servicemembers have also acknowledged another positive aspect of having a band other than playing at exquisite venues and meeting new people.

"My passion for playing music allows me to forget about the stresses of military life," Sergeant Rivera-Ortiz said. "As soon as I start playing, my attention is focused on the music and nothing else. It is a big stress reliever when I start seeing people in the audience enjoying themselves. Military members should have some sort of outlet, and that's why I believe having hobbies is important."

In some ways, the training Sergeant Coderre and Sergeant Rivera-Ortiz have received from the military has contributed to the recognition the band has received over the years.

"The Air Force deals with customers across the board, and, just like the Air Force, we have customers we provide a service for," said Sergeant Coderre. "We want to give our customers the best we can do while still staying true to our core values. We believe the way we represent ourselves in our off-duty time is equally as important as how we represent ourselves in uniform."

Having already booked shows in the near future, Soulamente focuses on continued improvement and progress of the band as a whole.

"We are still pushing to become a better band because we believe you can never really stop growing as musicians," Sergeant Coderre said. "Getting paid to play is not our sole motivation, even though it helps. We love seeing people enjoy what we work hard doing. We've been learning new songs while also continuing to rehearse, rehash and recite our older songs. Whether it is playing at highly visible venues, or playing more intricate songs, or even working on dynamics, we just want to become overall better players and musicians."

For more information about the band Soulemente, call Sergeant Rivera-Ortiz at 606-6343 or Sergeant Coderre at 606-0822.