For six months, the video on YouTube of the Maniacal 4’s rendition of “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas sat virtually unwatched, until someone discovered it and shared it on Reddit. The 2012 video went viral, jumping from about 50 views to several hundred thousand in a day, and now boasting more than 2.1 million views.
Two of the trombone quartet members — Matt Jefferson and Nick Laufer — made a stop at Elkin High School Tuesday morning to spend an hour sharing tunes, wisdom and guidance with Elkin City Schools’ instrumental musicians. The two were guided by Elkin parent Brad Oliver, who is coordinator of arts for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and has previously met the musicians.
“One of the big game changers for us in our careers has been how and why we use social media. It’s actually a big asset, a big plus as a skill set you guys probably take for granted, that old people don’t have. But old people have money, so when you get out there they will started paying you to do that,” said Jefferson of the foursome who met while attending North Texas State University. He teaches in Chicago, and has previously taught in Louisiana, and he also does the video production for the group.
Laufer is a member of the Toby Keith Band and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Both Nick and I wanted to have careers in music, but in the pre-established fields that are out there, whether that be a band director or teaching college or playing in an orchestra, we’ve both been lucky to do a lot of those things but neither of us really felt compelled or compassion for doing that full time. Is one thing to like doing that and another to feel like you’re meant to do that,” Jefferson said.
For a summer, Jefferson was part of the All American College Band at Disneyland, and as part of that, they are able to play five to six shows a day and do a 20-minute set in the park as a Disney character. He shared that with his height, he thought he’d be playing Baloo the bear from “The Jungle Book” or Woody from “Toy Story.”
But those costumes had already been taken, so he said the only character left was John Worthington Foulfellow, the evil fox from “Pinocchio.” “I went from Disney heroes to one of the scariest Disney characters ever. I had a cane, and I walked around and the first kid I saw that came up and almost tackled me and said, ‘I love you.’ So it was OK, and I had a great time,” Jefferson said.
The duo went on to play, with no prior rehearsal, the Disney “Little Mermaid” song, “Under the Sea,” for the young musicians.
Afterward, they explained, that rather than play their instruments with little main melody, like is typical of the music for many instruments in a band setting, the trombones take the melody role in their tunes, and they play the songs by ear, like they did “Under the Sea.”
“I thought maybe you guys that we had rehearsed that. We did not, we didn’t know what we were going to play just now,” said Laufer, who explained the two had discussed doing a Disney song on their ride from Winston-Salem to Elkin Tuesday morning, and they sang the tune in the car, but that was the only practice they’d had to prepare for it.
“Have you ever had this happen to you where maybe, Thanksgiving’s coming up and grandma’s coming to visit and she’s like you’re in the band, play me something, and you’re like grandma, no, I’m not ready, or you don’t want to hear trombone three parts. And all of a sudden you get this weird feeling that you should be able to do this, but I feel really uncomfortable doing this,” Jefferson said.
Laufer explained it to going home and practicing, and the family asking to hear “Jingle Bells,” and then it just sounds like broken notes here and there but doesn’t sound like the “Jingle Bells” melody people sing.
“I think what’s really important for you guys to understand, and that took us a long time to understand, is that simple doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. Running is simple, running fast is not necessarily easy,” said Jefferson. “So whenever we practice, we’re taking a simple concept and a song I know how it goes, I can sing it, or sing along, all I’m going to do is keep going on my horn until I can play it as comfortably as I’m going to sing it.”
The two did a round of “play that song” as they asked the students to suggest tunes for them to play on the spot, and then they played one of their own tunes with the rhythm instruments pre-recorded, which they compared to instrumental karaoke.
“One thing we want you to take away from today, you can have a career doing almost anything you want to if you work hard at it,” said Jefferson, as he explained how he came to do video production as part of his career after spending 40 hours putting together the “Carry On Wayward Son” video.
“YouTube actually changed our careers,” he said. The Maniacal 4 has been to seven countries and played many sets since the video went viral.
Jefferson also said, “Music is one of those things that create lasting friendships.”
The other members of their quartet include Alex Dubrov and Carl Lundgren, who is the composer for the group’s pieces.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.