What a night!
Two months ago, in my mind Madonna was just a famous name of the past who wasn't really relevant to pop music anymore. Now it's a name that, upon mention or thought, will immediately take me back to this past week of unforgettable experiences, culminating in a performance of the National Anthem with Kelly Clarkson and the halftime performance with Madonna at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. I will be honest, this week has been really difficult. My body has not been through this kind of pain probably since I marched drum corps almost 6 years ago. Seeing my wife awake was a rarity, as I was practically working second shift while she worked normal daytime hours. And while I enjoy working with high schoolers, spending 20+ hours surrounded by (star-struck) students was mentally taxing. But last night made it all worth it.
Being on the field for the pre-game festivities, seeing and hearing that incredible stadium full of loud fans, sharing the stage with Madonna, Cee Lo, and Kelly Clarkson, getting to drum with friends Josh Torres, Jason Hammond-Wood, Nick Taylor, Jeff Huffman, and Jeff Queen before 100+ million viewers worldwide. Indescribable, really. I should share how this event took shape and how I got to be a included in it all. Josh Torres, band/percussion director at Center Grove High School, got a call from a DCI employee (who also worked on the halftime team) in early December asking if he could round up and head up a 100-member drumline for the Super Bowl halftime. What a task! Thankfully, he said yes, and took on what turned out to be a HUGE endeavor. Madonna and her team had heard that Indiana was a prime place to find world-class drummers for a drumline, and they are absolutely right. Mr. Torres took advantage of the talent and experience of four Indianapolis area high schools (along with some of their alumni and staff) to put together this massive drumline. When asked if I would strap on a drum, there was no hesitation at all. Absolutely!!! The group rehearsed several times at Center Grove, where we were fitted for costumes, practiced the music, and learned the choreography and staging, which subsequently changed at least 23 times. The following week was for rehearsals in Lucas Oil Stadium with the whole shebang. Full costume and lighting run-throughs, detailing every possible thing we could with the time we were given. You may have heard that Madonna had put a lot into her performance, and I can tell you first hand, she is an incredibly hard worker. I was impressed by her attention to detail and her efforts to get everything just right leading up to the big performance. And I thought that the end result, while not perfect (who ever has a perfect performance?) was awesome! If even a fraction of what I experienced in the stadium made it to your TVs and speakers at home, then you should have been pretty blown away. (A side note: She was very thankful to us, the drumline, and was really nice in all our interactions with her.) Mr. Torres was also asked to assemble an "all star team" of 6 drummers for the National Anthem, to be sung by Kelly Clarkson. As one of his percussion staff members, I got the nod. A couple of Clarkson's audio production team members flew out to Indy to pre-record us playing the percussion parts for the National Anthem a couple weeks in advance, and we had one rehearsal with Kelly and the Indianapolis Children's Choir in the stadium on Friday before the big day. A huge thanks to Josh Torres for all of his hard work and lost hours of sleep to make this all happen so smoothly. And for letting me be a part of it. While I do expect the Super Bowl to return to Indianapolis at some point, I imagine that my experiences were truly once-in-a-lifetime. Oh, and thank you, New York Football Giants, for capping off an extraordinary week with the perfect finish...a beatdown on the Patriots and a Super Bowl Championship!