Twenty members of the East Coast Jazz battery percussion line got to hang with rapper/actor Will Smith (of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "Men in Black" fame) when he performed a benefit concert in Mansfield, Mass., on May 21. Smith turned out to be an affable guy, according to East Coast Jazz director Fred Ford. "Will came over and introduced himself to all of the members. He made it a point to shake all of their hands as well as the staff's," Ford said. "He seemed very sincere and genuine the entire time that we spoke to and interacted with him," Ford said. "He could easily play a role as a motivational speaker. While we were lined up ready to go on, he walked by and started yelling out to get the members psyched up for the performance." The song performed, "Switch," was specially arranged and practiced very quickly. "The piece was written and the members performed it in a time frame of under 12 hours," Ford said, adding that the sold-out audience numbered around 19,000. Smith didn't attend the soundcheck, when the East Coast Jazz first practiced the tune. Smith's publicist, Traci Nakagawa, initially contacted Ford about the performance. Nakagawa found the East Coast Jazz on DCI.org. If you're seeing a pattern develop –- drum corps members performing on the Ellen and Oprah shows, at the Super Bowl and at other high-profile gigs -- you're not alone. "Being the "best-kept secret" is no longer acceptable to Drum Corps International. The mainstream is starting to notice the level of excellence being achieved by today's drum corps performers. Each participating corps and DCI intends to keep pushing what we do in front of a bigger audience," said DCI executive director Dan Acheson. Check out a photo gallery.
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