ProvidedSenior Airman and Blue Aces singer Ashley Cook (middle left) returned to Chesapeake High School in February to greet teacher Michael Brisentine (middle right) along with her bandmates Master Sergeant Rebecca Taylor (drums), Technical Sergeant Jason Cale (guitar), Airman First Class Guy James (guitar) and Master Sergeant Kenneth Maurais (bass).
CHS Graduate Performs Across The World With U.S. Air Force Band
A lifelong love of music, the gift of a beautiful voice, the support of her family and a great opportunity in the armed forces have all led former Pasadena resident Ashley Cook to a unique career. Cook’s job is to travel the world inspiring others with her patriotism and singing talent as a member of The Blue Aces, a U.S. Air Force (USAF) Heritage of America Band that performs a mix of classic rock, Motown, R&B, blues and patriotic music.
Cook began studying voice at the Peabody Conservatory at the age of 3, undoubtedly influenced by her father, Michael Cook, a longtime member of the three-time Grammy Award-winning group The Mighty Clouds of Joy. She continued to study throughout her youth, furthering her aspirations at Chesapeake High School (CHS) and Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 2011, Cook joined the USAF.
“I initially joined the military because I thought it would be a great opportunity to travel the world doing something I love: singing,” Cook said. “But I now realize how important it is to serve my country by offering my gift.”
Cook is currently on her third assignment, as senior airman and Blue Aces performer, based out of Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. She serves her country alongside fellow full-time active duty musicians as they travel throughout cities on the East Coast and on deployments in support of troops abroad.
The USAF Heritage of America Band was founded in 1941. Currently, the musicians travel to hundreds of annual events worldwide. The band’s purpose is to inspire public patriotism and enhance esprit de corps among the U.S. military service branches, performing for the general public and in support of airman morale and protocol events. The military uses the band to communicate Air Force core values and preserve and enrich America's military and musical heritage into the 21st century.
Cook identifies two highlights of her time with The Blue Aces: performing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch at Fenway Park during her first assignment at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, and a more personal performance at her alma mater, Chesapeake High School.
“Our recent visit at CHS is truly one that I will never forget,” said Cook. “It was such an honor to perform at my old high school and have my family there, including my two younger siblings who are both students at CHS.”
During an honor roll assembly, Cook gave attendees information about the military that she didn’t receive as a student. “I truly wanted to showcase our core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do, and I think this visit will open the door and get them thinking about opportunities outside of our small town of Pasadena. I am definitely still connected to the area, which was why it was extremely important for me to come back and allow my community to experience the military as I have.”
Cook tries to visit her family in Pasadena about once a month if her schedule allows. This, she said, ensures she gets to connect with her loved ones and enjoy her favorite cream of crab soup from Sunset Restaurant in Glen Burnie.
“My family has always supported me, even when I had the surprising idea to join the military,” Cook said. “They had faith that I would represent not only the uniform but our family as well. It was such a great feeling to have most of them in attendance at the CHS performance last week.”
Cook plans to return to the Pasadena area after her service. Her immediate goal with the band is to continue to inspire, honor and connect with the community, helping others become aware of the opportunities that the Air Force offers. Cook’s future personal goals include moving closer to her family in Pasadena after making her transition out of the Air Force.