Marking the birthday of the legendary jazz trumpeter and bandleader, Drum Corps International Hall of Fame broadcaster Steve Rondinaro reminisces on his time working with the late Maynard Ferguson during the live PBS broadcast of the 1979 DCI World Championship Finals in Birmingham, Alabama.
1979 was my very first year on the show. I went in there wide-eyed and excited about the opportunity to do drum corps, which was my passion, on PBS, which is a national broadcast. And having the opportunity to do that with Maynard Ferguson no less?
I was fairly fresh out of college at the time, and all us jazz band guys idolized him. As far as I was concerned, I had died and gone to heaven!
That experience was a thrill from the get go. I remember when we first met; I was sitting there surreptitiously trying to sneak a peek at his lip. It sounds really weird, but as a horn player myself, and knowing what the guy could do with a trumpet, I was wondering, “Does his lip look any different? Does he have extra muscles bulging out somewhere?”
There was one point in the show when I pulled out a bugle, and I kind of surprised him. It was a spontaneous thing.
Remember in 1979 we were broadcasting more than five hours of a live drum corps show. It was a very unscripted broadcast, and it didn't have nearly the tight production values that we have now.
So I had this soprano bugle tucked away and about halfway through the show as we were under the lights in Birmingham sweating to death, I pulled the bugle out.
I said to him, “Maynard, now I know you do the three valve thing, but have you ever played on one of these?”
He held it up, checked it out, and he said, “No, but I bet you I could!”
I had no expectation he was going to pick it up and start wailing on it. I think half of Legion Field turned around and looked at us in awe.