Opening Night!

I know I posted the other day that we were opening, and we were, but those were preview shows and press shows. Tonight, in just one hour, we will have our official opening night here at the Tokyo International Forum! I’ve gotten several pictures of dress rehearsals and our preview show in Fussa before coming into the heart of Tokyo, where we will be for the next two weeks…

It seems fitting that I take a minute to outline just how much this experience means to me. Those of you that are close to me know how big of a deal this is. You know what I did throughout the past year in order to get here. Those of you that have known me for a long time know that this has been a dream of mine for almost 10 years. If you’re reading this at all you know that this dream coming true for me STILL blows my mind, even though we’re already months into this adventure.

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I remember the first time I saw Blast on DVD in band class. I think it was probably in the same series of post-concert movie days that I also saw the Cavaliers’ performance of Machine. It blew my mind. Fast forward to my freshman year in college when I met a Cavalier (shout out to Justin Wier) and I remember thinking, “Oh wow… he’s a person… just like me.” It was in that moment that a wall was broken between me and this fantasy world of superhuman beings and robots doing amazing things with their instruments, an instrument just like mine, but what they were able to do was a hundred times more incredible than anything I could ever do. In that moment I realized that I could at least TRY to be one of the people I’d seen on the video that day in band class, and maybe eventually make my way up the ranks to be a part of an incredible marching organization like the ones I’d seen.

Fast forward to my first summer at Carolina Crown. I wore jeans to my first visual block audition because I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have ANY business being there. My 4 years of marching band in high school and 1 year in college had served me well, but nothing prepared me for what drum corps required. That summer I remember walking with Evan VanDoren and he asked me, “So, JWebb, what’s your favorite drum corps?” I responded, “Carolina Crown…” and he asked, “okay, well who is your second favorite?” to which I embarrassingly responded, “um… I don’t have a second favorite… I haven’t really seen a lot of drum corps.” to which he laughed and said, “well, let me give you a brief run down of the history of drum corps.”

That conversation is where I first learned about Star of Indiana. And then slowly, over the next several years, I started to put all the pieces together. How Star developed into Blast, that elite group I saw on the DVD that day in band class. I started to realize how the people I was getting to work with at Crown had actually helped create and maintain Blast. People I had seen on that DVD were actually standing in front of me, teaching me, and connecting with me. Another wall was broken for me and I was reminded, “they’re people just like me.” That was when I started to say “I want to do Blast someday,” and my aspiration subtly started making its way into my every day life decisions. I reconsidered my life path so many times and adjusted it frequently because no matter what I was doing I knew I wanted to leave room for the possibility of Blast happening someday.

Fast forward to this school year when I sent Donnie an e-mail asking about upcoming tours. When he told me there was a tour on the horizon and I should get my videos done ASAP, I knew now was the time. I’m 28, just finished my 4 year commitment teaching with Wilson County Schools, and knew I was at a crossroads in my life. Either I tried and was cast, or I tried and wasn’t cast, but not trying was not an option. So, I tried. I became unhealthily obsessed with preparing my audition. After playing clarinet, trombone, and flute most days for 4 years it took some work to get my chops back in shape. Everything took a back seat to my practice sessions. I tried to be the best corps director, winds director, and band director I could be while working on my audition, but I think everyone around me felt the shift in my priorities. I took days off from school to go take trumpet lessons for the first time since 2010, I missed social gatherings, lost a TON of sleep, I still owe member jackets to the Carolina Gold Winds group (sorry guys, I love you, I promise you’ll get them), but I wanted to finish this audition and know that if I didn’t make it, it wasn’t because I didn’t try hard enough. I can handle not being good enough, but I couldn’t leave any room for “I could have been good enough if only…” I think, at the end of the day, I knew that I would only be a better corps director, winds director, and band director if I committed to this. My friend Barron said it best, “one thing’s for sure, even if I don’t get cast, I’ll definitely be a better player after doing the audition.”

He was right. I became such a better player through preparing that audition. It made me better in other ways, too. It’s made me value this experience more than I would have if I hadn’t had to work so hard to get here. There are some truly talented people here. I am not one of them. There are people here that BLOW MY MIND on a daily basis and make it all look easy… I’m inspired by them daily. I’m inspired by their talents and also the drive they have as individuals to continue perfecting their craft despite already being amazing people. I am three quarters of my way through this adventure, and so much has already happened… I can’t wait to see where things end up in the next two and a half weeks as we finish our tour.

Also, our opening night party was a lot of fun, too. Not a lot to share. Free food and wine and a good reason to get dressed up and take pictures. So. Here are the pictures!

Shout out to two of the people in these photos: Kaysey and Ben. I am so grateful to have gotten to know both of them and am so sad they had to leave after opening night. They are incredibly modest, and whenever someone says this in their presence they immediately reject the idea, but I wholeheartedly believe that this show would not have gotten off the ground without them. The entire cast agrees. They were with us from day one, from the very first stretch through every rehearsal block up to our opening night. They have shown me a new level of positivity and professionalism and I have grown so much from being around them. They both helped me transition into my role as conductor, and although I was down at first about not playing on stage with the cast I am so glad it opened a door for me to work more closely with them. They won’t get the number of thanks they deserve for all they did for us and the success of this show in general… it’s impossible to show them JUST how valuable they truly have been and continue to be through this whole experience.

All for now. 20 days and 28 shows! Here we go!

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