Missouri Air Guard band Sidewinder performs at White House

  • Published
  • By Bill Phelan
  • Special to the 131st
Sidewinder, the rock band element of the St. Louis, Mo.-based 571st Missouri Air National Guard Band made famous by a YouTube video, performed at the White House today in front of the Obama, National Guard senior leaders and other attendees.

The 10-member ensemble was invited to perform for First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joseph Biden, marking the one-year anniversary of the Joining Forces Initiative, a military family support program spearheaded by both women.

"We are thrilled," said  Maj. John Arata, Sidewinder band leader and commanding officer of the 571st. "This is a unique opportunity for us to represent the Air National Guard on a national stage and share what military bands do to support troop morale and build international relationships."

According to Arata, band members were told just last week that they would be making the trip to Washington after Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden saw videos of the band's performances.

"The First Lady's Joining Forces Initiative builds troop support in the American public particularly through the use of social and shared media," Arata said. "Our YouTube video is a perfect example of how modern, shared media can build troop support."

That video of Sidewinder performing "Rolling in the Deep," by Adele, while deployed to the Middle East last summer went viral and was viewed more than two million times. Its popularity led to the band appearing on the "Ellen" DeGeneres Show, "Entertainment Tonight," "Good Morning America," and "Fox and Friends." Band vocalist, Air Force Staff Sgt. Angie Johnson, also appeared on the hit NBC show "The Voice."

But all of that pales in comparison to playing at the White House.

"Performing at the White House is the opportunity of a lifetime, especially for a regional band," Arata said. "We're very motivated to present a high quality, professional product and we look forward to thanking the First Lady and Mrs. Biden for the opportunity to be a part of this significant event."

Sidewinder performed three songs at the White House,:K.T. Tunstall's "The Black Horse and The Cherry Tree," "Journey's "Don't Stop Believin," and Sidewinder's You Tube viral sensation  "Rolling in the Deep," a popular song by professional vocalist Adele.  Vocalist Angie Johnson also sang The National Anthem for the event. 

"Singing at the White House was something on my bucket list that I thought maybe someday I'll do that,"  said vocalist Staff Sgt. Angie Johnson, "But I never really expected it to happen."

In addition to Arata and Johnson, Sidewinder band members who perfomed at the White House were :Air Force Staff Sgt. Sean Navarro; Staff Sgt. Devin LaRue; Staff Sgt. Brian Owens; Tech. Sgt. John Cavanaugh; Staff Sgt. Toby Callaway; Tech. Sgt. Kevin Maret; Technical Sgt. Paul Holzen, and  Master Sgt. Brian House..

The 571st Air National Guard Band, headquartered at Lambert Air National Guard Base-Saint Louis is a subordinate unit of the 131st Bomb Wing-Whiteman Air Force Base.