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Before starting this post, I'd just like to say thank you. Over the past week I have been bombarded with wonderful, absolutely wonderful messages of encouragement and commiseration and support and strength. Your kind, hearfelt, understanding voices have drowned out the messages of hate that I've also received (and there were many.) I did not know that so many people still enjoyed the circus. After all of the efforts put out by the animal rights agenda, and as our audience diminished over the past year, I had begun to think that the circus was really and truly hated. But this week has taught me that the opposite is true. The vast majority of you still love the circus. You love the animals, you love the people, you love the tradition, and the magic, that is circus. I will never forget it.

It is not lost on us that at any given show, there are hundreds of people who are seeing a Ringling Bros. spectacle for the last time. And all of us will do our best to perform at the highest level for you, before we go.  Thank you so much for all of your love and support.


Let's see if I can remember anything about this week, haha.

I remember that we had a single show on Monday, after which Jameson and I both plastered ourselves to the computer to look for work, for hours, into the next morning. Tuesday was very much the same. For Jameson, he is the type who needs to jump right in and start searching to maintain a high level of motivation. For me, I need time to be upset so that I can move on. While Jameson was reaching out to his contacts and making some seriously impressive progress, I was blogging, and writing, and answering questions on Quora. I was responding to the many many people who wrote to me on my blog and facebook and email. Hundreds and hundreds of messages poured in. I don't think I've ever typed so much. I remember looking up from the screen with a blazing headache and realizing that it was approaching 1am, and perhaps I should give it a rest.

At some point in there I went to a back room to be alone and cry my eyes out. Like I said, for me the best path is to feel the feels, and then move on.

That night we packed up and drove to the train (it had spotted early). I spent the day splicing trombone highlights from my 2013-2014 Built to Amaze performances, and loading them on SoundCloud. After that, several more hours answering questions on Quora and responding to all of the hateful and kind messages that I'd received that day. Looking around my room, I had to try really hard to keep it together. I'm going to have to pack everything up, and leave this tiny room, which I consider to be my home. I'm one of the last people to stay on this historic, beautiful train. By the way, what will even happen to the train? Ugh.

I spent Wednesday updating resumes, updating my LinkedIn, responding to messages, reaching out to various connections, etc etc. This is literally all that I did for the entire day, with breaks to eat. Right before bed I finally caved and watched some anime, just to get some of the tension off of me.

Thursday was opening day. Let me tell you, there was a notable difference in everyone's attitude. Usually on opening day people are relatively cheerful, talking and joking as we enter the building, roughhousing during rehearsal, etc. Today was definitely different. We filed slowly and silently into the arena. We set up as usual. Occasionally I heard a snarky comment or a laugh with no joy in it. It made me feel bad...the next few months will be very difficult to get through if we can't cheer ourselves up.

(photo courtesy Julio F./Richard S.)

At the pre-rehearsal meeting, it was announced that we would no longer be able to get discounted tickets for our friends and family. We were also offered career counselling from a third party, who would be backstage for the weekend. We had a pretty normal rehearsal. Probably due to a little depression, the show was difficult to play; it felt like I was playing underwater or something. Not fun. Jameson lent me his Q2N camera because I'm trying to get footage for auditions. But I do not like playing in front of cameras, so I was a bit nervous, plus the levels weren't right. It was a good test run though.

Friday was incredibly busy. I had an interview with a magazine for a possible upcoming article (not sure if it will be published, stay tuned), and then later in the afternoon we had a phone conference involving all eighteen members from both Red and Blue unit bands and our union representatives. This was in preparation for severance negotiations with Feld.

That night I recorded footage of myself playing the show again, but it turned out to be one of those weird "off" shows where lots of unusual stuff happened and many things went wrong. The Wheel act was longer than usual, we lost the our timing during Mountain Gag, some wonky stuff happened during Bungee, the BMX act was cancelled due to a wet floor...nothing serious, just enough odd stuff that several parts of my recording were unuseable. But I'm kinda glad I got it on tape! For the memories :)

And you know, I think perhaps what happened during that show was just everyone trying to shake off the very heavy shadow of the dying circus bearing down on us. We're all still here, we all still love what we do. We all want to give our best, to the very last minute.

Saturday was a confirmation that some of our good vibes were returning. I saw people smiling during the show. I saw performers actually reacting positively when the crowd cheered. Brett (bandmaster) cracked some jokes with us. It felt almost normal.

We also got an interesting surprise: our Entr'acte music was changed to something a little more...circus. It was the classic, the infamous, the traditional circus fanfare: Entry of the Gladiators. It's a little-known fact that certain members of the Feld family are not fond of this piece of music, so I'm sure that this is a sort of tongue-in-cheek jab at them. But it's also a tribute, to everything the circus ever was and has been. The audience absolutely loved it. This is the first time in forever that the band has been applauded for our little feature in Entr'acte.

I loved it too. Now, in addition to being able to say that I was in the circus band, I can also say that I got to play Entry of the Gladiators for Ringling Bros. AWESOME.

My boss had something to say about it, and he put it so well, I had to share it:

"As a musician for the RBBB circus, I've grown accustomed to being taken for granted. Sometimes by my employers, sometimes by the audience. (Never, however by the performers.) It often seemed as if the audience was unaware of our performance. It's the cost of doing business, i suppose. But yesterday, something changed. At the direction of Rye Mullis, our second half overture, known in the biz as the Entre' Acte, was changed. Out was the theme of the show, and in was Thunder and Blazes, Entry of the Gladiators. It was stylistically altered to fit the feel of the show, but the melody was unmistakable. Immediately, and I mean immediately, the audience heard it and responded. I could hear audible gasps and cheerful reaction from children of all ages, not to mention the gleeful echoes from Taylor, Sandor, Ivan, and the rest of Clown Alley. Turns out, our audience is savvy after all. They heard the traditional circus music, and responded positively, enthusiastically, genuinely. Long ago, I felt like we should have "leaned in" and embraced our remarkable, unique place in this culture, rather than run away from it, seeking windmill after windmill. Maybe our audience didn't leave us. Maybe, just maybe, it was the other way around.

Couldn't agree more, bossman.

I had a nice surprise of my own after the first show on Saturday. I was just walking off stage when I heard several people scream, "GO TROMBONE!!!" from somewhere behind me. I turned and squinted up into the audience and saw some people I didn't recognize waving enthusiastically. I waved back and quickly went to meet them! It was a family who'd come to see the circus one last time. I was introduced to two young men who would soon be graduating high school, one of whom was auditioning for music schools and the other who was applying to the US Air Force! Both are trombone players. We talked a bit about the circus closing, taking auditions, music stuff, what they thought about the show. I was so glad that I got to speak to these guys and the rest of their family. It reminded me that what we are doing here is not just something to be brushed off or thrown away. We are making people happy, and giving encouragement, and showing what great things people are capable of when they work together. My day was made!

The rest of the day went just fine. I stopped by the career services booth, just to see what it was all about. It was mostly assistance with building a resume and suggestions for taking a job interview.

Jameson took his camera back and recorded some footage of himself playing. Hopefully it'll be good enough for him to make a great audition video!

On Sunday we had two shows. There was a line of storms rolling in, and a tornado watch, so everyone was scrambling to bring our equipment inside or at least closer to the building between shows. Hopefully everyone will stay safe for load out. Both shows were packed, both went well.

After the last show we packed up and drove to Jameson's place. Tomorrow I hope to rest a little, but we both also have work to do.

In closing, I would like to share with you all a message that I got from a wonderful couple whom I've never met. Everyone in the circus needs to hear their message to us, and keep it in their hearts.

"I grew up going to the Circus. Back in the 1960's and living in NYC, there were still small Circuses that would come through, and of course every year Ringling Bros was the highlight. My favorites was always the clowns and the acrobats. Eventually my career with the Airlines would take me out west to Salt Lake City. I would still go to the circus as an adult. When I married my wife of 22 years, as long as we were in Salt Lake City we would take the Nieces and Nephews to the Circus, but this was merely an excuse so that we could go and enjoy it ourselves. We now live in Southern Idaho, and this year I asked my wife if she would like to take a trip down to see the circus in Salt Lake City about five hours from where we live. It was soon after that we heard the sad announcement that the Ringling Brothers Circus would be closing and going dark forever. Worse yet the remaining shows would be on the East Coast. Alas I am now disabled retired and travel is hard and expensive.

"I write this email to let you know, that you did something that mattered. There will be children who saw the Circuses that you performed in that will remember them for the rest of their lives. It is so sad that a new generation will grow up without the circus. The real circus, the one that came into town on a train, that had well cared for elephants, tigers, lamas, horses and camels. That had acrobats who really did death defying stunts, some unfortunately even lately have paid the cost. (may they heal well and complete.) That had whole crews of people that just put show the together and then disassembled it to go to the next city. Please know that there are many out here that truly enjoyed and were influenced by what Circus did and will do. Only the best thoughts and wishes on your future.
" - Steve and Maureen

Other stuff:

On opening day Jonathan (animal specialist) was walking around backstage with Katie (snake). Judah (floor crew) was holding her, and I started taking some video. Katie was very curious about my phone!

Our director,  Rye Mullis, took this photo after our Friday show. Even after finding out we'd all lose our jobs, people still stayed late to practice and perfect their acts. THAT'S work ethic.

Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson's collage of the sold out arenas he's played this week. Ours were very similar. "I haven't seen consecutive packed arenas like this since my first tour," he exclaims.

The Red Unit train in the morning fog.

(photo courtesy Nikki R.)


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 23rd, 2017 05:32 am (UTC)
Thank you for the update!
Your boss is RIGHT on the money!

Entry of the Gladiators all the way!
Jan. 23rd, 2017 05:37 am (UTC)
Re: Thank you for the update!
Lol! Yeah he knows what's up! Thanks!
Jan. 23rd, 2017 05:52 am (UTC)
RE: Re: Thank you for the update!
We miss the three rings, the authentic music, the elephants.....

The REAL Circus!

....... And we know you'all do, too!.........

(Deleted comment)
Jan. 26th, 2017 04:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Sending Good Thoughts Your Way
Ooh, that sucks :/
Yeah, Jameson and I are sticking to each other pretty hard. The thing is, we are both realists. We are musicians. We know that our careers may take us in different directions from here on out. This doesn't mean I love him any less, but it does mean that we may end up apart from each other, and ultimately we might walk separate paths.

I would be very upset if we had to end our relationship because we ended up in different states. But I would be more upset if one of us stopped pursuing our dreams to "be with" the other. I don't want either of us to have regrets about missed opportunities, or grudges about having given something up for the relationship. If it's meant to work, it will, and if not, that's ok.

Thank you for writing. Agree about the clowns! LOL!!!
Jan. 23rd, 2017 08:40 pm (UTC)
I played Entry of the Gladiators as I read your post. And as soon as it started my inner voice/child screamed in delight "CIRCUS!!". I never knew this song by it's true name, but recall so many fond memories as a child of going to see RBBBC as a wee child, and this song is woven all through it.

Why were they not fond of it? This song goes hand in hand with the show. The grand entrance, all pomp and circumstance as everyone parades in. It was glorious.

Not gonna lie though, as it played, and I read, tears rolled down my cheeks. For the loss of all your jobs, for the loss of my childhood. I will always have all the wonderful memories, but it's heartbreaking to know there will be no more shows. For all the children who will never get to go.

Vargas will still come through and play here in San Diego. I believe they are coming through soonish. It's just not the same though. Not even close. Ringlings was/is THE CIRCUS. I saw most my RB shows shows growing up in Glendale, CA. It was a huge deal to me. So exciting and magical.

I feel like I've lost a family member. And if it feels like that to me I can't imagine the grief you all are going through. Thank you, to all of you, for all the joy and happiness you've provided the world for all these years. You, and the show will be missed.
Jan. 26th, 2017 04:39 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Entry of the Gladiators is as "traditional circus" as it gets! That's probably why some of the Felds don't like it. I think that they wanted to get away from the "traditional circus". Whether that's good or bad, I don't know, but it sure seems like it didn't work out, huh.

I'm so sorry. I feel the same way. I wake up every day on the circus train, my home for five years, and look around my room, and dread having to pack up my things and lock the door forever. I walk around the train yards that we live in and remember parties and barbecues and good times that won't happen again. I look at the arenas and mentally check them off as we leave each city...another arena and another city that I may never see again. I remember the little special things about each city, the cities we will get to see one last time and the cities that I was looking forward to but will not get to see. It hurts every day. Part of me wants each day to last forever. Another part of me wants to hurry up and end it already.

Ringling was special, and it's a shame that it will be gone. I hope that someday someone will try to replicate it, but you're right, the circus world will never be the same.

Thank you for writing. <3
Jan. 24th, 2017 02:48 am (UTC)
Re: Getting back up

Try trainweb dot org and in the Search TrainWeb box type Circus 2015. The first entry below the Google ads should be the RBBB Circus 2015 page about the Anaheim stop. Photos of the band follow an entry called Clown Alley.

Thank you and good luck,

Jan. 26th, 2017 04:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Getting back up
I think I found it. Photo of the bandstand. Cool :)
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 26th, 2017 04:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you've enjoyed these little writings. Now that the circus is ending, I'm really glad I kept this blog so we can all look back and remember!

Thank you so much. Here's hoping we all find a place where we belong <3
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 26th, 2017 04:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Sorry to Hear
I'm going to be honest: if Nik Wallenda really, truly wanted to buy the circus, he wouldn't be doing interviews and radio shows and hyping it up. He'd be formulating a business proposal and long-term plan for the Ringling name, hiring a lawyer, scheduling a real, sincere business meeting with Feld, putting on a suit, and sitting down privately to discuss his proposal to buy the Ringling brand.

But instead he's doing interviews and radio shows and hyping it up. It's a publicity stunt. He wants media attention, that's all.

Nik Wallenda himself and all of his assets are worth around $3 million I'm told. If he cashes in all of his assets and sells all of his equipment and stocks and everything, it will not be enough to buy the Ringling brand. He doesn't have the money or the sincere intent to purchase. Plus, as I keep having to tell people, IT'S NOT FOR SALE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

We are all in severance negotiations with Feld. The majority of our performers are here on green cards, and will have to return to their countries by May. Many of the animals have already been sold. No one is going to "buy" the performers, animals, train, props, equipment, etc. No one except a billionaire has enough money to do that. So WE are not getting saved. If further down the road someone wants to try and form their own circus, by all means. But Ringling, the name and the brand and the rights, are owned by Feld. And until they sell it, Ringling is closing. End of story.

Sorry to be a downer, but there have been a lot of folks clinging to this "Well maybe someone will rescue it" or "Well maybe if we have a bake sale we can buy it". A) That's not how this works, and B) it's just not for sale for anyone to buy. So I hope after this Wallenda nonsense people will get it into their heads that Ringling is closing, for reals.

This isn't meant to be mean or anything, I'm just a realist and this is what's really happening. What people can hope for is more smaller circuses or a new big circus, in the future. That's a realistic hope and I'll subscribe to it too :)

Edited at 2017-01-26 04:55 pm (UTC)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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