Music Student Has a Blast! on Tour
Posted: March 12, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am
Last year, a typical day for music education major Mark Metrinko involved playing trumpet in the middle of a neon-lighted yellow triangle in front of an audience of more than 5,000 people. As a cast member of the touring musicals Blast! and CyberJam, Metrinko literally took his talents on the road–spending May through December 2003 in Japan, England, and parts of the United States for an experience he’s not likely to soon forget.
Metrinko first saw the musical Blast! in 2001 when it came to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Winner of the 2001 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event, and a 2001 Emmy Award for Best Choreography, the show was created from the idea of a drum and bugle corps’ outdoor pageantry. The production inverts the idea of a musical by bringing the musicians on stage.
“It was such a unique opportunity to be on stage as a character, rather than be hidden in the orchestra pit,” says Metrinko. “But it also meant you had to be versatile, ready to play a different character every night as well as your music.”
Metrinko was very interested in the show because of his own drum and bugle corps experience. Having marched in the Cadets of Bergen County Drum and Bugle Corps in 1999, he had knowledge and appreciation for the history and form and thought Blast! would be a great opportunity. He went to the Broadway Theatre in New York City and auditioned in 2001. He was turned down but told to send in an audition tape anyway. He sent one in, and didn’t hear anything for a year.
That might discourage some, but not Metrinko. In April 2002, he was called to perform in the summer cast of Blast 2: Shockwave in Walt Disney World Epcot. Through that job, the trumpet player was able to make many connections and stay in touch with the producers of Blast! even after returning to George Mason in the fall.
“From September 2002 to May of last year, I called them every two weeks,” he says. “I was really assertive. There was no way they couldn’t know I was there.”
His persistence paid off, and last May, Metrinko found himself a member of the touring cast of Blast!, traveling to a few cities in the United States and Tokyo and Osaka, Japan.
Metrinko not only got to know the show inside and out, but also learned all kinds of things about Japanese culture. The cast had been warned that unlike American audiences, the Japanese were generally very reserved and quiet when watching a performance, so none of them were prepared for the reaction they got while touring in Tokyo and Osaka.
“From the moment we started to play the first song until the end of the show, we could hardly hear ourselves for how loud the audience was,” says Metrinko. During one number where the cast marched through the audience to get onstage, Metrinko says the people were grabbing their hands as they were trying to play their instruments. “Some would wipe the sweat off our foreheads as we passed. It was so amazing! If this was a reserved audience, then I don’t want to see them when they’re crazy,” he laughs.
After he finished his tour with Blast!, Metrinko transferred as an understudy to a sequel show called Cyber Jam. He was on call with that show for several months in London, where he would often fill in for musicians with split lips, muscle problems, or other emergencies.
“I would often have to learn a completely new part in a matter of days without any rehearsal time at all. And there was no time to complain. You would just say, ‘ok,’ and make the best of it. You just had to do it.” Hectic as it was, Metrinko loved every minute of it and learned to adapt in stressful situations, doing what was necessary to get the show presented.
Now that he’s back at George Mason, hoping to graduate next spring, the trumpet player is concentrating on earning his degree. He turned down an offer to go back on tour, but hopes that if the show ever goes to Broadway he might be able to play for a while there. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play on Broadway,” he says. “But I’m currently taking auditions for various military bands in the D.C. area and hope to be doing that once I graduate from Mason. If not, I will be teaching and practicing.”
In Blast! Mark Metrinko (in white T-shirt) got to see what it was like outside the orchestra pit.
Photos courtesy Mark Metrinko