Ice, Ice, Baby

“The Picture”

If I have to pick just one picture of me playing the horn to represent me for the rest of my days, this is it. This is it whether I like it or not, because everyone I know would call me out for not choosing it. This picture has been everywhere and back. From my perspective, it seems like about one-third of all musicians who have any kind of electronic device have this picture on it. I knew the moment that I saw it that it was an epic success.

The funeral ceremony to which we were tasked wasn’t the least bit unusual other than the fact that it was snowing. It was a perfectly average ceremony. The weather was just right, though, for these conditions. The snow fell through warmer air so it was wet and heavy, but landed in colder air so it stuck to the metal horns instead of just melting off. We collected snow as we marched along the route and collected more as we stood in formation.

When we were finally released and marched back to our buses, Cameron and I just shook our heads at how we looked. I begged for anyone to produce a phone with a camera so we could preserve this. Matt Summers put down his euphonium and pulled out his phone. Rather than take a picture of us with buses, people, and civilization in the background, he moved us around so we had nothing but white, Arctic desolation behind us. I tried to keep a neutral gaze toward the camera, while Cameron put on the bitter-old-man face. The tattered music he’s holding still slays me to this day. A thousand funerals, and he doesn’t trust himself to have three minutes of music memorized.

It was hard as hell to get those horns off. The snow was not only on the tubas, but on our sleeves and shoulders. It was twice the weight we were used to, and we were cold and aching. We forgot all about that once we saw the picture. Matt was e-mailing that thing around as soon as we were on the bus. It was the wallpaper on the computer monitor in the lounge for, I don’t know, six years or something. It’s been referred to as “The Marine Band’s Iwo Jima Memorial.”

That funeral ceremony was totally ordinary, but this picture looks like the story should start with, “Oh my God, that job was so bad…” In fact, I can’t remember anything about that funeral, but this picture reminds me of countless other moments in the Marine Band, and never fails to spark a story about one of them. It really is worth a thousand words.