by Bob Fields, Drum Corps World staff
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I recently had the opportunity to interview Aaron Goldberg of the Texas Crossmen. Aaron is their brass caption head and has been with the corps as a performer and then an instructor for 12 years. For quite a number of years I have been able to watch him work the Crossmen brass line and have been impressed with how he has been able to bring the musical talent to life from the new and veterans members of the corps.
My first question to him was about the direction of the Crossmen now that they are firmly in place at their new home in San Antonio. There has been much discussion on the difference in style from the old Pennsylvania days to the new Texas days, so who better to ask than their caption head.
Bob Fields: Tell me about move to Texas and how it has worked out for the Crossmen so far?
Aaron Goldberg: We are very thankful for what YEA! did for the Crossmen. They helped out the corps in a big way in the mid-1990s and the organization certainly did experience some success under the management of YEA! With the move to Texas came a refreshing feeling of being self-managed, of being the only one in the driver’s seat. The corps is becoming more and more rooted in Texas, with people coming out in larger numbers every year to be a part of a great World Class corps located in their own backyard.
Students have shared with me that they were waiting to join the Crossmen to see how we would fare competitively in Texas, but even though we are still working to climb the competitive ranks, they see and hear the corps getting better year after year and they are attracted to that.
BF: Is the corps drawing strictly from Texas or are you getting people from other areas?
AG: We have had our largest number of auditioning members this past year and still draw members from all over the country, including the Northeast. We even have several students in the corps who currently attend West Chester University in Pennsylvania, the area where the Crossmen originally hailed from. Our ties are still strong in the Delaware Valley and we feel the love from fans and alumni when we travel up I-95 into the region that is so familiar to this corps.
Becoming increasing more rooted in San Antonio is healthy — we are now establishing in our new area what the Crossmen have always been familiar with, diehard fans.
BF: There has been a lot of discussion regarding the difference between the classic Crossmen arrangements and those of today. Can you fill me in on that?
AG: The corps’ choice to use the music of Pat Metheny for this year’s program, “Full Circle,” is one that has pleased a lot of fans. Throughout the last decade, the Crossmen have found a niche with the groove-based jazz style of Pat Metheny and the corps has used his music successfully in three different competitive seasons before this one.
The thick jazz harmonies, rich voicing and textures, and infectious rhythmic interplay have given audiences something to groove to during a number of memorable shows over the years. Our current design team looked to revisit some of the music that has been well-liked in our past competitive programs and revamped it to be “next decade.”
The modernization of the Metheny charts should not shock audiences — it’s designed to be slightly different from what we’ve done in the past. I’m not sure how many folks in the crowd are familiar with the original tunes, but they should be! Go out and buy the live album “The Road to You” and tell me if it doesn’t make your heart beat in mixed meter.
The most noticeable differences between the charts that we’ve played in the past and the current version is the musical layering. Our versions of the Metheny material in the past have been more or less verbatim, bringing to the field the excitement of the originals with some compulsory “drum corps moments” added by great drum corps arrangers. This year’s take is different by design, paying homage to those successful shows of the past while experimenting with a new, varied musical style, still with those compulsory moments added.
BF: Can you give me an example of the differences?
AG: The themes of First Circle, Heat of the Day, Minuano and Letter From Home are heard sometimes in a straight-up, ifted-from-the-original fashion and sometimes in a complex, interwoven variation. We consider it being reverent to our past shows while being different for today.
My rookie year marching in the Crossmen was 1998, which was a wonderful Pat Metheny show.
My first year teaching the Crossmen was 2002 which opened with a thrilling and memorable version of Heat of the Day. And now, as I take my place in the stands each night during competition, having come “Full Circle” with the Crossmen, I still uncontrollably “bob” my head to these great tunes, night after night.
BF: Can you share what the staff might be adding to finish the show before Indianapolis?
AG: In order to clean up and amp-up during this point in the season, we are expanding some effect moments in the show and continuing to clean, clean, clean. There is a lot of detailing yet to be done to make the show cleaner, crisper and to make every aspect of it readable.
There are effect moments that we are continuing to maximize from a full-ensemble standpoint.
The “coolness” is built into the show. We must continue to refine each moment of the program in order to attain a high level of excellence. The teaching staff is excellent, the members are hungry and we are all digging in to elevate the level of our performance and to make this show a memorable one for years to come.