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NEWS | Oct. 10, 2012

The Spirit of Jazz

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Captain Lyndsey Moynihan, a 315th Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III pilot, has flown around the world numerous times. But when she returns to Joint Base Charleston, her heart remains up in the air, but her passion for singing jazz soars through the stratosphere.

The roots of her passion for jazz were planted at an early age, from the black and white keys of her grandfather's grand piano in his Atlanta home. During her childhood visits, her grandpa Joe would spend hours playing upbeat and soulful jazz tunes for Lyndsey and her sister.

"Grandpa would play the songs of Cole Porter, Dixieland Jazz and many other old-time artists," said Moynihan. "He'd begin playing as the sun came up and I remember how wonderful it was to wake up hearing those songs."

The music inspired Moynihan. At age five, she began training as a classical pianist and began singing years later.

"I've always loved entertaining," said Moynihan. "Singing show tunes in school was a great way to do that."

Growing up, she refined her love of jazz by listening to her parent's records. The crackling vinyl albums of history's jazz greats would spin from the family phonograph, and as the needle delicately ran along the recordings, it filled the room with waves of sound that inspired her.

Moynihan's first solo gig as a jazz singer came during her freshman year of college. At 19, her dreams of singing were realized at a small martini bar in Atlanta, just miles from where she first discovered her love of jazz.

"I wasn't sure it was legal for me to even be there," Moynihan joked, due to her age at the time. "But, I was there, and I sang my heart out for three hours that night."

The performances continued throughout her college days at Vanderbilt University. Moynihan took advantage of every opportunity she could to sing. While studying abroad in Paris during her senior year, she performed at "Les Caves," a makeshift jazz club in the basement of a cigar bar. The club had been used as a bomb shelter during previous wars.

As deeply rooted as jazz music was in her family, another passion had shined brightly in her life; flight. Moynihan's father was a pilot, and her mother a flight attendant, so aeronautics was as much a part of her as the music she adored. In fact, her nightly jazz performances after college were funding her flight lessons to become a pilot.

"At the time, I enjoyed singing but I also enjoyed flying with my father," said Moynihan. "I guess I was just trying to figure out who I was."

Moynihan's internal question of self-identity was answered during her first solo flight. As she carefully landed her aircraft onto the Georgia flight strip she was training at, she realized right then who she was.

She was a pilot.

She took her pilots' license into the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and also became a pilot with Delta Airlines.

"When I joined the Reserve, I was flying so many missions that my aspirations as a singer started vanishing," admitted Moynihan. "For the first time in my life, I was disconnected from jazz."

Although she wasn't singing in clubs, Moynihan felt that jazz was still part of her American culture and upbringing. The music she had grown up with, from soul to swing, had also instilled in her a strong sense of patriotism and she felt joining the military was her duty. And, after months of constant missions with the 315th Airlift WingSquadron at Joint Base Charleston - Air Base, S.C., her first love of music seemed like a distant memory.

"Once the missions weren't as time consuming, I started listening to locale jazz groups in downtown Charleston," said Moynihan. "It was upsetting for me to watch others performing. Not because they weren't good, because Charleston is full of talented musicians, but because I missed the feeling of performing in front of others. I missed jazz."

With the support of her husband, Capt. Brian Moynihan, 15th Airlift Squadron C-17 pilot, Moynihan dusted off her old record collection, stepped back into the spotlight and dedicated herself as a jazz singer once again.

"Music is Lyndsey's first love," said Brian. "She's been doing it since she was a child and I'm incredibly proud of her. She is a world class performer."

Moynihan admits it doesn't matter if she's in front of two people or 20,000, there is always a part of her that experiences a little stage fright before a performance. In May 2008, Moynihan was part of the Air Force Reserve Band's "Caribbean Tour," and during their Puerto Rico stop, she sang in front of more than 29,000 fans.

"The nerves go away once I finish the first song," said Moynihan. "That gives me a chance to get used to the crowd. After that, it's wonderful."

Although for Moynihan, nothing compares to performing in the intimate setting of a small jazz club.

"I dreamed of being a pilot and a jazz singer," said Moynihan. "I never gave up on my dreams and today, I can say I'm able to live them both. It's not about the fame or a record deal that inspires me to keep singing, it's the connection I have with the jazz community and the artists that have inspired me."