Empire State Youth Orchestra Alum Performs at Presidential Inauguration

One Empire State Youth Orchestra (ESYO) alum—and current mentor in the Schenectady-based performing arts organization’s Young Leaders Program—had the gig of a lifetime on January 20. US Army Master Sergeant Brian Sacawa, who plays the saxophone in the United States Army Field Band, took part in a presidential parade led by musicians from every military branch during the inauguration ceremony for US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday.

An 18-year veteran, Sacawa joined the US Army Field Band after completing an audition and basic training. Sacawa’s actually performed at five presidential inaugurations and serves as a section leader in the concert band as well. He also leads the field band’s saxophone quartet.

Among the pieces Sacawa and the field band performed at the inauguration were Edwin Eugene Bagley’s “National Emblem,” John Phillip Sousa’s “The Thunderer” and Brigadier General Edmund L. Gruber’s “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”

Besides being a mainstay at presidential inaugurations, Sacawa has also served as a mentor in ESYO’s Young Leader Program, which connects high school–aged musicians with mentors. Says Sacawa of his mentorship at the ESYO: “Leaders paint a picture of what is possible and inspire those around them to turn that vision into a reality. My goal as a mentor in ESYO’s Young Leader Program is to plant those seeds of curiosity, awareness and ‘big picture’ critical thinking. I hope that, whether music becomes their profession or remains a hobby, they can make a positive, lasting, and meaningful contribution to their community.”

Sacawa was a member of the ESYO Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Orchestra from 1993-95.

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