HARLINGEN — “Waiting for the break of day, searching for something to say, flashing lights against the sky …”
Those memorable lines from the iconic band Chicago filled the auditorium at Marine Military Academy yesterday morning where young cadets attended a Beginnings Master Class, by the visiting Chicago tribute band Beginnings.
“Giving up I close my eyes,” sang Beginnings band leader Mason Swearingen as cadets blew their instruments, the notes starting high and then cascading energetically downward.
“Woo! Good job!” extolled Doug Woolverton, trumpet player for the band.
The band was in town to play later in the evening as part of the Harlingen Concert Association season and the cadets were planning to attend that concert, too.
However, Beginnings band members came by MMA to share a little of their experience and expertise. About 20 cadets from grades seven through 12 sat attentively with instruments in hand as band members spoke.
“Raise your hand if you believe in the importance of practicing,” said Woolverton, a Grammy nominated musician.
Every hand shot up.
“The only way to really fine tune anything you do in life, whether it’s music or mechanics or anything, is by doing it, and doing it, and doing it, and doing it,” Woolverton said. “The reason I have a career with this instrument, I started playing this instrument when I was 4 or 5 years old. My father was a trumpet player and keyboard player.”
He spoke at length about playing with his father’s Dixieland band and the long years of practice, not for competition or prestige, but from a sincere dedication to the instrument.
Still he’d had his shortcomings. He managed to get through four years of high school band without really reading music.
He later made up for it through long hours of study. He told a story to illustrate his success.
“I got a call two years ago, ‘Doug, we need a horn section for Aretha Franklin,’” he recalled. “She was coming to Connecticut and they forgot to hire a horn section. Before they could finish I said, ‘yes!’ I showed up to the arena and it was so late in the game we did not get to sound check. We had to segue into the show.”
His years of experience had enabled him to pull it off.
Members of the band had the cumulative experiences of playing with Don Henley, Billy Joel, Blood Sweat and Tears and Steve Miller — just to name a few.
Guitarist Johnny Roggio had performed on Broadway, which is no small feat.
He’s been playing in bands his whole life.
“How many of you guys think what you do is fun?” he asked.
Again, their hands went straight up.
“All right!” he said. “That’s the number one thing with being in a band or playing an instrument. There has to be that fun element. Our job is to make everybody in the audience smile.”
He extended an even more personal message, describing a musician’s performance as a gift.
“There’s something that we do called inspiration,” he said. “Everything that you do is an inspiration to someone else. It’s always a reflection of your personality to another person. You might change that person’s life.”
Cadets appreciated the message.
“The presentation was outstanding,” said Corbyn Fallin, 14, a trumpet player.
“I learned a lot, especially with how you play with your mouthpiece,” he said. “Instead of buzzing, it’s better to blow. It was fun.”
Many felt honored by the musicians’ visit.
“I really enjoyed it because it’s really rare to see professionals and actually be able to speak with them,” said saxophone player Kymari Croasdale, 13.
“They taught me a lot,” he said. “I learned how I should practice and how to play my instrument a little better.”