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C24601

A Cadets2 Tuba Player Named Jean Valjean

Matt Chastain grew up in Vernon, NJ and graduated from Vernon Township High School last spring. Throughout high school, he was actively involved in the band program as well as the theater department.

“I’ve had a connection with musical theater, and particularly Les Mis, for as long as I can remember, and I can blame my mom for that,” he said. “When I began to get involved with theater in high school, Les Mis became a dream of mine.”

During Matt’s senior year of high school, the theater department announced that they would be putting on a production of Les Mis for the spring musical. Matt auditioned and landed the lead role of Jean Valjean.

MattChastain2.jpg.pngAs Hugh Jackman most recently illustrated, playing Valjean is as exhausting as it is rewarding. The role involves performing lengthy songs with challenging melodies, often in soliloquy.

After many tedious hours of memorization and rehearsal, the line-up of performances went by all too quickly for the VTHS cast. When the curtain fell on the final night, Matt and his fellow students found themselves wishing they could do it again the next day.

“The experience was very difficult, yet so emotionally moving and truly life-changing,” he said.

Matt felt such a strong emotional connection to his character’s journey throughout the story that he decided to have “24601” tattooed on the inside of his arm.

“The story of Jean Valjean really helped me realize how to live my life to the fullest, and I wanted to get a permanent reminder of the way it made me feel to walk in his shoes,” he said.

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(The number on Matt’s arm is a tribute to Valjean's prison number which is tattooed across his chest in the show.)

Matt is now a freshman music education major at UMass Amherst who also has an interest in drum corps.

“Since the first day I saw a drum corps, I wanted to be a part of one,” he said.

2013 auditions came and went last fall, and in early January, he began to regret not trying out for a corps for this summer. Through his involvement in the music program at UMass, Matt was acquainted with Cadets2 Drum Major Katy Boggs, and he told her about his dilemma.

MattChastain3.jpg“Next thing I knew, I was at the second January camp,” he said.

Interestingly, through his conversations with Katy, Matt had no idea that Cadets2 had already been rehearsing several minutes of music from the musical that has profoundly shaped his character.

“I didn't actually know about the Les Mis show until after I had decided to march, but it certainly helped me decide to stick around,” he said.

Matt auditioned and made the Cadets2 tuba line in January, and this summer he’ll have the opportunity to perform Les Mis as a part of a very different cast, in which there is no leading role.

“Music is now the main aspect of my everyday life, whether it be in class, in the practice room, or just hanging around jamming with other kids who share my passion. It’s what my life revolves around,” Matt said.

 

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