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From The 13th Chair Trombone Player

Humorous and inspiring author DJ Corchin offers his unique observations about life in the world of marching bands.

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Home > From The 13th Chair Trombone Player > Ripped Jeans And Self-Esteem

From The 13th Chair Trombone Player:
Ripped Jeans And Self-Esteem

By DJ Corchin
Posted August 7, 2010

OK, so I had this dream. I was the only member of a color guard standing on a glass football field housed in a 10,000 person capacity theater. Jon Bon Jovi was there standing about 15 yards to my right in ripped jeans, holding a rifle-shaped guitar, and with much better hair. I said, "Hi." He looked over and only said, "I'm Jon Bon Jovi." From The 13th Chair Trombone Player I glanced out in the crowd and saw every ex-girlfriend I've ever had and their husbands, who just got home from the Senate, staring at me. My mother was working the spotlight and got a kick out of doing shadow puppets on my out-of-shape abs. I threw my rifle into the air, and on its 7th rotation it turned into a giant lollipop. I thought, yeah this is cool, a lollipop. Then, 2-inch steel spikes grew out of the sides of the rainbow goodness as it came down. I dove out of the way. My scream sounded like a startled crow. The medieval lollipop shattered the glass field. I stood there as my mother narrowed the spotlight on my face and the crowd laughed. I, and Jon Bon Jovi, were still floating above the millions of shattered glass pieces. Jon Bon Jovi looked silently at me and gave the "S'up" nod. He then threw me his rifle-shaped guitar and I proceeded to throw a twelve while catching it behind my back. The audience was stunned silent. I winked at the crowd and simply said, "I'm Jon Bon Jovi." I suddenly woke up and for some random reason thought, "We have a great selection of meats and cheeses."

Now that those of you who have been reading these columns understand where my inspiration comes from (and are possibly even more frightened), I'd like to make sure the point of this dream doesn't get lost. I don't often speak about specific instances with my time in BLAST ( Usually I talk about the opportunities it provided for me and the wealth of experience I gained. But there was one particular moment that really made me see the fundamental value participating in color guard gives someone.

I was fortunate enough to be in the cast at a time when it played in all the top theaters and to sold-out crowds of thousands every night. (I'm not exaggerating.) One Friday evening we were playing to about 2,500 people. There was a section in the show when we performed a piece entitled "Medea." It's very fast and very loud. During one of these "loud moments" the entire brass ensemble blares a wall of sound and then at the drop of a hat releases together to complete silence as the color guard ripples a toss of metal rifles with the last individual catching his rifle precisely on the release. It's rather impressive when done right. This particular time, he dropped his metal rifle and in the midst of silence (and one of the biggest moments of the show) it clanked and cloncked on the ground, down a set ramps, and spun around on the floor of the pit. It seemed to last forever. None of us moved. We kept performing as we should but ALL of us were thinking, "OMG, did that seriously just happen?!"

I was mortified for him. I exited the stage thinking I would find him in tears. But as I approached him in the wings, I saw that he was moving on as normal, even joking about it with other cast members. The magical part about this is that he wasn't faking or hiding anything. He seriously felt OK and was just preparing to perform the next number.

At that point, I began to analyze the personalities and character traits of the color guard cast members, also known as the "Visual Ensemble." I found that they had mastered the art of being successful through failure. Every one of them had the confidence to "drop" and move on. They weren't afraid to try something on the spot and miss. They just smiled, improvised some dance move, and gracefully continued.

I remember thinking...I WANT THAT!

I was able to see this created from the beginning during some recent summers volunteering at the Music For All Summer Symposium. The instructors for the Color Guard Academy are amazing! But not just in their knowledge. What they really teach is fearlessness. They encourage the kids to try and fail. Countless times I saw young women and men throw a flag, rifle, or saber in the air, drop it, then pick it up and try 30 more times in a row. Usually dropping it 30 more times. Even in the performance at the end of the week the students still dropped their props. Not one of them felt embarrassed by it. They imitated their instructors, improvised a little dance move, and continued on.

Now there are exceptions, but for the most part I've seen kids come out of color guard camps or programs glowing with confidence about their talents and bodies. They relish in learning from failure and emerge an even better person. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we all felt great when we "dropped our rifle"? I know Jon Bon Jovi agrees with me ;)

About the Author: DJ Corchin is author of the celebrated humorously inspiring book, Band Nerds Poetry From The 13th Chair Trombone Player ( He was a featured performer in the first national Broadway tour of the Tony and Emmy award winning show, BLAST! where he was best known as the "unicycling trombonist." His new children's book, You Got A Boogie (, was recently published to rave reviews. A pop recording artist out of Chicago and former high school band director, he continues to be involved in marching bands and music education through speaking events, competitions, and organizations such as Music for All. He will be publishing another book and releasing a new album in 2010. Mr. Corchin welcomes your comments via email. Mr. Corchin is an independent contributor so his views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of

Text by DJ Corchin. Trombone illustration by Dan Dougherty.

Copyright 2010 All rights reserved. This material may not be published or redistributed without permission.

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