Photo above from AirVenture 2017 in Oshkosh, WI by Martin Filiatrault
By Jeff Auen
Country music star Aaron Tippin says that flying and music are his two passions in life and credits the Flying Musicians Association (FMA) for putting the two together for a great cause. “I believe educating the next generation is so important for music and aviation to continue on,” said Tippin, whose tagline is “The hardest working man in country music.”
The Flying Musicians Association (FMA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2009, is a network of individuals and businesses who share a common passion for both aviation and music. The FMA welcomes all proficiency levels and musical genres, and recognizes that the skills required to play an instrument and fly an aircraft have marked similarities: precision, discipline, patience, and fine motor skills, all practiced in a multitasking environment. Members share their passions in order to inspire, educate, and encourage others by creating enthusiasm and promoting personal growth through presentations, performances, networking, and scholarships.
“2017 was a record year for the FMA in every measurable way,” said John Zapp Sr., President/CEO of the Flying Musicians Association, Inc. “We feel that this year will pave the way for an even more memorable 2018!
The FMA participates in large aviation gatherings and events, providing venues for members, promoting music and aviation education and raising scholarship funds for deserving students. At the world’s largest gathering of aircraft and enthusiasts, AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI, the FMA enjoyed one of the best events yet in 2017, thanks to many participants who took the opportunity to have FMA’s pilot/musicians entertain at their functions. Many of those entertainers donated their time and talents to raise awareness and funds for FMA’s programs and scholarships. This year Daher, ForeFlight, SPA, SOS Bros, and Honda were HUGE supporters. “With their help and the generous donations from audiences at all of our AirVenture functions, FMA was able to substantially fund two additional FMA Solo scholarships in 2018,” said Zapp. The FMA Scholarship backs a junior or senior high school music student, funding their flight training from introductory flight through solo.
Direct sponsors Bose & Bose Aviation, Sporty’s Pilot Shop, MyGoFlight, Gleim Aviation, Aviators Hot Line, Sensenich Propellers, Banjo Ben Clark, Trade-A-Plane, and 121five.com have generously equipped each recipient with gear and training material to successfully go from zero to solo. The FMA Solo Program has, in its first three years, awarded six scholarships and soloed five new pilots. And nearly every flight school/instructor has agreed to offer discounted pricing while some have even donated additional hours after solo.
Aaron Smokovitz, an FMA Solo winner, along with his dad and uncle performed with the AirVenture Concert Band (led by member Elton Eisele) in Oshkosh’s Theater in the Woods. John Zapp introduced Aaron, FMA and the FMA Solo Program prior to Aaron’s solo in La Virgen de la Macarena. The AirVenture Concert Band is home to many Flying Musicians and we expect to see many FMA Solo recipients joining them in the future. Members also enjoyed FMA Jams throughout the week, some scheduled and some impromptu.
AirVenture is only the largest of the events frequented by the FMA. With an annual presence at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo (Sebring, FL), Sun ’n Fun (Lakeland, FL), DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase (Deland, FL), and many fly-in events throughout the US, FMA membership is growing and even more FMA events are in the works, including FMA’s popular HangarJAMs, held wherever pilots and musicians gather. A HangarJAM can be thought of as a house concert, where musicians and aviators gather at their home airport to enjoy music, food and “hangar flying.”
Our FMA soloists (in an airplane, that is) include Drew Medina (2015) and Sarah Coffelt (2016), and three of the four 2017 recipients have also soloed. Our Canadian recipient, Courtney Taylor, is well on her way to achieving the private pilot certificate. (Follow each recipient, their flight schools, progress, and instructors at www.FMAsolo.org.)
Good acts beget good will, and Murfreesboro (TN) Aviation has donated an additional ten hours post-solo to Scholarship awardee Isaac Hill, and Quality Aviation Services (Midland, MI) has donated an additional $1,000 and will nominate Aaron Smokovitz for a flight training scholarship through their local EAA chapter.
FMA is making a difference!
Look (and listen) for the FMA in 2018 at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, Living Legends of Aviation Awards, The NAMM Show, Sun ’n Fun, Summer NAMM, AirVenture – Oshkosh, and the DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase, plus appearances and performance at the DFW Aviation and Transportation Career Expo in Dallas / Fort Worth, TX, and join us at a local HangarJAM or event near you!
Get involved! Donate time, money, your enthusiasm and your local expertise to FMA to promote aviation and live music at your function, wherever it may be. And think about who should be sponsoring the Flying Musicians Show Night to kick off the 2018 AirVenture at the SOS Bros. tent on Sunday, 7/22/2018.
Complete information about everything FMA can be found at www.FlyingMusicians.org.