Video Conference Recap: Jay Bocook

An Evening with Jay Bocook: March 25, 9 p.m.

JayBocook_finals2013.jpgLast night, Director George Hopkins had Cadets Brass Arranger Jay Bocook on the line to discuss the corps' musical past, present and future, as well as the music industry today.

Jay began by telling listeners how he became the world-renowned arranger that he is today, and offered advice to young people looking to break into the industry. George proceeded to direct the conversation based on listener-submitted questions.

"Would you say there is still room for professional arrangers in the market now?" George asked.

"Yes," Jay said emphatically. "But you've gotta be good, and you've gotta be versatile."

Jay became an arranger just as the role was developing in the modern music industry. Until mid-to-late 70s, there wasn't much in circulation other than stock charts, Jay explained. Drum corps were also becoming extremely popular at that time, and actually began to influence change in the area of music composition because arrangements are imperative to the activity. Jay started out arranging for his high school band, and as directors heard his music, word of his talent began to spread.

"You're never your best champion," Jay said. "Other people are. It doesn't matter how much you write, but how often its performed. Get conductors on your side. Create a website that has your pieces available. When I started writing in the 70s, you had to be published by one of just a few publishing companies, but if i was starting now, I would definitely put my work online."

The Cadets Brass Staff at warm-up, DCI Finals night 2013

"Let's talk about The Cadets for a little while," George said. "What made you come here?"

"Well, even before I was involved with The Cadets, their head ran where my head ran," Jay said. "I liked the musical approach and the style of the drum corps. It's unpredictable. Nothing is impossible, and I love that."

Jay has been arranging for The Cadets since 1993. He has composed and arranged music for 21 shows and six of the corps' 10 DCI World Championship programs. He loves the creative process drum corps allows, and when asked which of his works is his favorite, it's always the one he most recently finished.

"The Cadets are the one place that I'm really going to write as deeply and as intricately as I'll ever write," he said. "And if it gets overlooked by the judges because they don't like the show, well, the kids got it and the staff got it. I know this organization is always going to be great, and that makes it fun because, as creators, we can get as crazy as we want."

Jay went on to provide examples through the years. "I remember at Spring Training in 2000, we knew that what we had was kinda good, but we just weren't really sure," he said. "But that final product was just spectacular."

George recalled the many late nights, design team arguments, and rewrites behind We Are the Future as well as many other shows.

"I wrote a really hard brass feature for the 'Anything You Can Do' middle section of the 2000 show," Jay said. "It was a fugue. And then I saw what the drums were doing with the tenors playing behind their backs, and I was like, 'They can't play my fugue after that! It's going to set the roof on fire.' So I got up at 6 a.m. the next morning and rewrote that brass feature."

The Cadets Brass Section, 2000 feature

"As The Cadets, we pretty much stick to melodic material," George said. "And we've received some criticism for that in the past, with music judges simply telling us that we play too much. I remember many conversations walking off the field in years when we were third or fourth, wondering if we should take a more rhythmic approach to the brass section, like some other corps do."

In those conversations, Jay's response is generally, "If you force me to write that, I just don't think I want to do this anymore."

"I think the musicians deserve to play," he said. "Those 60 to 80 brass players deserve to be able to show off what they can do. I think drum corps music needs to have rythmic, melodic and harmonic vitality in order to keep it interesting to the audience."

George asserted another listener-submitted question: "How do you feel about French horns and trombones?"

"I like them," Jay said positively. He went on to explain how the bores of the horns affect their tonal contribution to the ensemble brass sound, offering examples of ways different brass instruments could be incorporated into drum corps programs to richen - not ruin - the performance quality.

Those on the call also got some more insight into the musical productions within The Cadets' 2014 program, Promise: An American Portrait.

George Hopkins will be traveling to South Carolina this week to spend more time with Jay and other members of the design team, as they continue to refine the show and plan for the quickly approaching season.


Thanks to everyone who tuned in to last night's video conference. If you have a question that went unanswered on the call, submit it for Ask Me Monday!

If you missed the talk, tune in on Tues., April 1 for another video conference with The Cadets Staff! Click here to read about each one.

Sign up to listen here, and you will receive an e-mail reminder inviting you to the call on Tuesday.


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