Tom Gallagher stepped out of Augusta Regional Airport’s Gate 5 Wednesday, his rolling suitcase behind him, and stopped and stared.
There among the bustle of travelers were four members of the Thomson High School Jazz Band, belting out tunes on a baritone saxophone, trombones and percussion.
“I thought it was like being on the Titanic,” said Gallagher, who flew from Chicago to attend the Masters Tournament. “It was nice to see.”
For the first time, Augusta Regional has brought in musicians to perform for travelers during Masters Week, the airport’s busiest seven days of the year. A local musical act will perform in the Spring Music Fest each day through Monday.
“We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get local artists the most exposure we could,” said Augusta Regional communications manager Lauren Smith. “This week is very busy. The terminal is full. Almost shoulder to shoulder with people.”
During Masters Week, Smith said, about 20,000 passengers filter though the airport – the same number seen during a typical month.
Augusta Regional began planning the Spring Music Fest earlier this year as an expansion to the mini concert series held around Christmastime.
Thomson High School band director Jessie Morlan said the gig is an opportunity to give exposure to his four young musicians, who were chosen to play at the airport from the school’s 25-member jazz band based on their skill and academics.
His band agreed.
“We’re just in high school, so we’ve really just done band concerts and football games,” said Thomson junior Mitchell Powers, who plays trombone. “This is really exciting.”
The airport’s marketing budget will also pay out $100 an hour for the three-hour slots, which Powers said is another bonus.
When he arrived at the airport Wednesday, Michael Via of Sarasota, Fla., had about a three-hour wait for his 1:40 p.m. flight back home. It was his first trip to Augusta for the Masters Tournament, and he spent Tuesday watching golfers at the practice rounds and taking in the azaleas.
His ears perked when he heard the band start playing.
“It’s pretty neat,” he said. “I had a long wait, but hopefully now it will go quicker.”