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Family finds harmony in village

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This is the first in an occasional series of articles profiling individuals and families who recently moved to Yellow Springs.

Ask any musician. One of the hardest challenges they face is finding a suitable job that pays a livable wage.

David and Caryn Diamond were well aware of this fact when they first met as undergrads in the trumpet studio at the University of Kentucky School of Music. Six years later, the pressure to find stable employment reached a crescendo when their first child, Phillip, was born in 2001 just as David was completing his coursework for his doctorate in music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Caryn, meanwhile, had completed her masters and was “gigging” all around the southern Illinois university town, playing in local bands and orchestras, teaching piano and trumpet in their home, and working part-time at a nursing home.

Unfortunately, the highly coveted jobs in academia rarely had openings. Some of David’s musician friends had already landed jobs with an organization he had heard of but didn’t have any personal experience with -— a very large organization with a stable funding source and recession-proof history.

The couple weighed the pros and cons of David pursuing employment there. The company provided health insurance, benefits, and a salary sufficient enough for a musician to provide for a growing family. He’d have to wear a band uniform. The band repertoire included classical symphonic compositions, military marches, Broadway show tunes, and contemporary music. He’d get to travel all over the world, performing with other bands and international celebrities, but that would also mean time away from his family. There would be an audition and, just as in academia, he’d be up against some fierce competitors.

And he’d have to do 50 sit-ups, 45 push-ups, and carry a firearm.

“The single largest employer of musicians in the country is the Department of Defense,” said David during a recent interview as the couple played with their children Phillip, now 7, Eve, 3, and Noah, 7 months. Trumpet players, especially, have a long tradition in the military.

“Soldiers would have to take their direction from bugles because there was no such thing as a [public address system],” David explained. “The bugles would call retreats and charges and call people to different meetings.” Nowadays, military bands are used for public relations, providing music for ceremonial events, recruiting, boosting troop morale, and promoting esprit de corps.

David got the audition, made the cut, survived basic training, and has been playing trumpet with the United States Air Force Band of Flight stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for the past five years. For a couple with no military experience, it has been one wild flight.

“When we moved on base, they had free housing and it was the best housing we’d ever had!” Caryn laughed. “It wasn’t a dump! They were giving us all this money to live on.” The couple was able to pay off a large amount of their college debt and in 2005, their daughter, Eve, was born. “We were able to get back on our feet financially and we got free health insurance. It’s been really great.”

Regaining their financial footing was particularly instrumental in achieving a dream the couple had since moving to the area: they wanted to live in Yellow Springs.

“We lived in Boulder for three years,” said Caryn. “That was my first taste of the kind of town culture that I fit into. Yellow Springs is like a mini-Boulder.”

Every chance the couple got, they would visit their favorite town. They joined the YS Food Co-op, driving here monthly to pick up their bulk food needs. They’d have dates at Young’s Dairy and hike in the Glen.

Initially, the Diamonds did not think they would ever be able to afford a home in Yellow Springs. But as their visits increased, so did the motivation.

“We wanted our son to have his first public school experience here,” said Caryn.

Finally, after years of dreaming, saving, and planning, in March 2008, the same week the town was blanketed in 15 inches of snow, the Diamonds moved into their new home. The next day, Caryn was scoping out Friday Preschool Storytime at the library when a parent asked if she knew about the playgroup that meets at the Bryan Center on Wednesdays.

“I went there and now they’re my biggest support group,” Caryn said, still in awe of the connections she made so quickly. Even though she had only known her new friends for a month, they organized meals when the couple’s next child, Noah, was born May 14, exactly two months after they moved to town.

“We knew it was community-oriented with everybody knowing everybody and supporting people, but to actually experience that…,” Caryn’s voice trailed off as she searched for the appropriate words to convey their gratitude. “It’s beyond our dreams. It’s better than we thought.”

A different type of dream, however, became reality this fall when David was informed that he would be deployed at the beginning of the new year to play for troops in the Middle East.

“We knew it would probably happen when I re-enlisted,” David said, explaining his decision to re-enlist after four years in spite of their personal fears. “We decided that in order to stay in this area, doing something like this was worth it.”

David’s band uniform will consist of a camouflage ABU (airman battle uniform), tan combat boots, bulletproof vest, helmet, M-9 pistol, and trumpet. The band will not only be playing for the troops, but will engage in public outreach as well, helping with the building of hospitals and schools. He left on Jan. 2 and will be gone for two months.

“Every person in this town I’ve told has said to me, ‘Just let me know what I can do to help,’” said Caryn, whose sister and mother are living with her and helping her with the children during David’s absence. She will continue to teach trumpet and piano lessons and perform with the Ohio Valley British Brass Band, of which she has been a member for five years.

As a staff sergeant, David sees a positive aspect to the deployment. If he can provide the armed forces personnel with entertainment that takes their mind off their situation and being apart from loved ones, even if just for a short period of time, it’s worth the sacrifice. But as a husband and father, leaving his family is another matter entirely.

“I would love it if nobody ever had to go over,” he said. “I’d love to see all of our cultures coexist in peace and nurture each other.”

For information and local performance schedule of Band of Flight, go to http://www.bandofflight.af.mil.

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