No, your ears are not deceiving you. That’s really “Uptown Funk,” the chart-topping Bruno Mars pop hit, being performed by an 80-member marching band.
Safe to say the 2017 Jamboree Band is not your grandfather’s Jamboree Band.
Tristan Grammar, 16, is a trumpet and French horn player from the Black Warrior Council in Alabama.
“It’s a different change of pace,” he says. “In high school they tell you to be stoic and strict. Here you get up and dance.”
Or even “Shut Up and Dance.” That 2014 rock song from the group Walk the Moon is another of the band’s crowd-pleasing songs.
They also play Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and Fall Out Boy’s “Uma Thurman.” They’ve added a dozen vocalists this year to further diversify their skill set.
One of those vocalists is Becca Trumbull, 18, from the Greater Western Reserve Council in Ohio. She also plays xylophone.
Becca is in pretty much every musical group back home — concert band, jazz band, show choir and more — but likes the Jamboree Band’s vibe.
“There’s a formality with concert band,” Becca says. “Here we’re still professional but less formal.”
And, yes, the Jamboree Band can and will play Americana favorites like Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Forming a sound
Each day the band travels around the Jamboree site. They’re bringing music to the Scouts instead of the other way around. The saxophones sway and the baritones bounce as passers-by sing along.
The group sounds amazing — a fact made even more remarkable when you remember most of these young people didn’t know each other a week ago.
The 2017 Jamboree Band, 80 members strong, is made up of youth ages 16 to 25. Almost all of the musicians are members of their high school or college bands. Twenty-nine different states are represented.
Alan Clark, 16, is a clarinet player from the National Capital Area Council in the D.C area. He notes that the band has coalesced in basically the shortest possible amount of time.
“Sunday was our first formal dress rehearsal,” he told me on Thursday. “It’s gone really well considering we’ve come from all across the country. We all had some sort of musical background. We’re all from that band community.”
The 2017 Jamboree Band will perform about 25 different times here at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.
That total doesn’t count so-called “flash mobs,” where the band shows up unannounced and starts entertaining the crowd. These are a game-changer, says Jamboree Band Director George Pinchock.
“We wanted fewer sit-down ceremonies and traditional concerts,” he says. “More flash mobs. Cameras are out to get photos and video as they pass by.”
Pinchock is a volunteer here, but his “real job” back home is at Villanova, where he’s the assistant band director. Like any good director, he makes tiny adjustments to the performance every day.
“We’re constantly tweaking,” he says. “We’ll be handing music out till the day before we leave.”
Wowing the crowds, performing service
Arthur Brock, 18, is a baritone and trombone player from the Blue Ridge Council in South Carolina.
Though he’s been in marching bands for the past five years, the Jamboree Band experience is unlike anything he’s experienced.
“It’s a reaction that I haven’t had anywhere before,” he says. “People say, ‘I enjoyed listening to you from up on the zip line.’ That’s awesome.”
The band isn’t just playing for Scouts at the Jamboree. Today they visited the West Virginia Veterans Home in Barboursville to perform for residents there.
“Playing music is how a band performs service,” Pinchock says.
Photos by David Burke unless otherwise noted.