Arts News

Blast! performer talks challenges of a musical without words

Inspired by performances on athletic fields across the nation, BLAST! is a completely unique show that celebrates music, art and movement. The Emmy and Tony award-winning production will be rolling through Utah, Nov. 1-2 at Kingsbury Hall. BLAST! brings together 35 brass, percussion and visual performers in an explosion of music and theater.

Jason Moncrief started touring with the Broadway show after graduating from Youngstown State University in 2002. The musician and performer has been featured as a tuba soloist, and has traveled to England and Japan on an international tour. Moncrief, now a New York City resident, talked with QSaltLake about Blast! and life on the road.

QSaltLake: Will this be your first time in Utah?

Jason Moncrief: It will be my first time. It’s one of the few states I haven’t been to. I don’t know anything about Utah, I’ve heard of Salt Lake City and I’ve heard it’s really gorgeous. I love doing outdoorsy activities, so I hope there are some fun things I can do while I’m in town.

QSL: Where are you from originally?

JM: I’m from Ohio originally. I was raised just outside of Cleveland. After college, in 2002, I started doing the show. I lived in Los Angeles for three years where I taught school, played with an opera orchestra and toured with the show. Now I live in New York City. I’ve been there for the past three years and I love it.

QSL: How did you first become interested in music and performing?

JM: It’s kind of funny because I first started playing when I was going to an inner-city Catholic school. This guy wanted to start a band in the school, so he would come by and help us rehearse.

As for my musical tastes, I have such a wide range. I was trained classically but I love all types of music. Everything from Mozart to Stevie Wonder and Rihanna to Beyonce. So many people inspire me and I love so many types of music.

QSL: What is Blast! and why should people go see it?

JM: People should go see it because it’s completely unique and completely different. The musicians come out of the pit and onto the stage. The entire show is music. We use acting, music and movement to tell a theatrical story. It’s the uniqueness of the show that’s so attractive. Really, the performers are musical athletes. The show is just really high energy.

QSL: What role do you play in the production?

JM: I am a tuba player. I play some percussion. Everyone does a little bit of everything. The more you do the more you’re in the show. But primarily tuba.

QSL: What are some of the biggest challenges of the production?

JM: There are a lot of musical and physical challenges. You’re moving while playing the horn, not just sitting and swaying, but really moving. It’s a physical, cardio challenge. And there are a lot of different musical styles in the show that can take some time to master. We rehearse for about six weeks to do this production. We start everyday at 9 a.m. and rehearse until 10 at night. It’s a very involved show. There are so many things to do and master because there’s no spoken text in the show.

QSL: Do you have any advice for young people that want to follow a similar career path?

JM: My best advice for young aspiring musicians is just to be as diverse as possible. Have a couple of tricks in your bag. Don’t be close-minded to think that one style or one path is the only path. In this day and age people want to know if you can do a few things. Grow a lot of ways musically. Stick with it and keep going. It can be hard, challenging and stressful, but in the end it is so rewarding.

QSL: Do you identify as gay? And if so, how is it being gay and performing?

JM: Yes, I am gay and it’s not really an issue. I don’t use it as something to make it into a big deal. I am open and honest about my life. There are so many beautiful things about me, and being gay is just one part of me.

QSL: Do you have any advice for young queer people living in a conservative environment?

JM: My advice is just stay strong through it all, no matter what happens. Stay strong, stay true and stay honest. Although we may get a lot of backlash for who we are, remember how fortunate we are because things are so much better than they used to be and they’re just going to keep getting better.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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