Drum Corps International
Further memories of Jerry Seawright

Further memories of Jerry Seawright

by Michael Boo

We lost Jerry Seawright six months ago this coming week. John M. Meehan has long been associated with the Blue Devils horn line. In the fall of 1978, my family moved from Casper, Wyo., to Concord, Calif., because Jerry Seawright and the Blue Devils had hired my father to join Wayne Downey on the brass staff. In my opinion, 1979, my father's first year on staff, is still one of the most amazing horn lines in ALL of DCI history. That year started what is now the 22nd year that a Meehan has been on the Blue Devil brass staff. [pic_1]Space chords have been a constant memory for almost every member and fan that has marched or witnessed a Blue Devil horn line since 1979. One of the biggest fans of space chords was Jerry Seawright. Whenever I would see Jerry at a BD warmup during the ten summers prior to his passing, I knew what he wanted to hear ... a few of these, a few of those, a big dissonant cluster chord and a loud-as-anything C and G chord progression! One of my fondest and most recent memories was in 2002 while we were getting ready for finals in Madison. The horn line was warming up during one of the earlier competition days and Jerry walked over and asked me if we were going to do some space chords. It was one of those years that Van and I hadn't really taught them anything because we were constantly working on the show music and never really had the time to do "fun" stuff. I immediately said to myself, "THIS IS JERRY SEAWRIGHT. Of course you're going to do space chords for him." So in between the next few exercises I would discreetly go up to each section and tell them what certain hand signals meant and what we were about to attempt. When we got to the final exercise of the warmup, Jerry was strategically placed in the THX zone by some helpful alumni. I embarked on an impromptu space chord session that I will never forget. The kids reacted like the true professionals that they were and the size of the goosebumps I had were what Wayne would appropriately call "ducky bumps." After we finished and I dismissed the line to the field, I turned around and saw the biggest smile I have ever seen on Jerry's face. THIS is what I will always remember about Jerry, his devoted love of the activity and the kids and staff that brought it to life. In my opinion, Jerry would love drum corps even if we played Metallica on woodwinds and used amplification. WHY? Because Jerry understood that drum corps is more than what we play and what we play on. It is about WHO is playing and how their life is being affected by something he had a hand in starting. I am proud to be a Blue Devil for life (no matter what changes may take place), and owe my being a Blue Devil in large part to Jerry Seawright. I have had the honor of being raised in a family that has been a HUGE part of this activity for well over 40 years, and have personally known almost all of the greats. One of the things they all share is that it's the "kids" that make it all worthwhile. And Jerry had that more than any of them. If you get the opportunity to see a Blue Devils warmup and we happen to do space chords, please remember Jerry, I know I will be thinking of him. John M. Meehan Member, Blue Devil 'C' Corps, 1980-1982
Member, Blue Devil 'B' Corps, 1983-1985
Member, Blue Devil 'A' Corps, 1985-1989 Staff, Blue Devil 'A' Corps, 1994-Present
Staff, Blue Devil 'B' Corps, 1994, 1999-Present
Staff, Blue Devil 'C' Corps, 2000-Present Doug Oakley remembers a meeting with Jerry. Although I only really met Jerry once, I'll never forget the encounter. It was at the 1976 DCI convention in Chicago (the same one that authorized the use of two-valve bugles). I had the privilege of having dinner with him, along with some friends of mine who were acquaintances of his. Until I saw him speak later in the program, I did not believe that it was really Jerry Seawright. I thought my friends were jerking my chain. He was already achieving legendary status with the Eastern corps directors, and to think that this unassuming guy was Jerry Seawright was hard to believe. The discussion was never about him, but revolved around the Otts and all of the people that made Blue Devils what they were. He was one of the most positive, genuine individuals I had ever met. As a side note, heading back to the airport with my upstate New York small corps buddies, I got one of those "Oh my God!" looks from them when Jerry passed me going the other way and took the time to say, "Have a safe trip, Doug!" I can only imagine the loss to those who were closer to him, because I can feel it way over here. Doug Oakley
Andrea Birbilis is currently with the Racine Scouts and used to be on management of Michigan's Northern Aurora. I recall the infamous summer of the Northern Aurora bus accident. I was tired of answering phone calls from news agencies, inquiring how our members were doing and what our future plans were. About a week after the accident, the phone rang (again) and a gentleman on the other end announced himself as Jerry Seawright, director of the Concord Blue Devils. I practically dropped the phone. He asked how our members were doing, and then asked if there was anything we needed at the moment. We had a wonderful conversation, and it finished up with, "If there is anything that the Blue Devils organization can do for your corps, please do not hesitate to let me know. We are pulling for you guys to get back on the road." Shortly thereafter, a card appeared in my mailbox, signed by the man himself, along with a personal contribution. It still amazes me to this day how tuned in he was to everyone's needs and how much he cared for the entire activity. He was everything that is good about this activity and we are all poorer for this loss. Andrea Birbilis
 
Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition.
   
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.