The Super Bowl is a worldwide media event with the halftime extravaganza getting lots of attention beyond the sporting world. Super Bowl 53 saw several Bluecoats participate in the halftime production. Nick Taylor, Jake Lyons, Colin Brewer, Corinne Artis, and Alex Naughton, all recent Bluecoats, had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the amazing halftime production at Super Bowl 53.
Jake Lyons, part of the Bluecoats Front Ensemble in 2012 and 2013, helped produce the drumline that appeared with Maroon 5’s act. “In early December, the casting team reached out to me personally about being a liaison for this drumline they were going to use at the show. I’m an Atlanta based WGI director of a percussion group, and they kind of stumbled upon me through the grapevine,” Lyons shared. The halftime producers wanted an Atlanta based group of 32 performers and it fell upon Lyons’ shoulders to staff and equip the group. Thanks to Seavine, Sabian, Innovative Percussion and On2, the equipment needs fell into place.
Lyons looked to the staff and alumni of Equinox to fill the personnel needs. “The group is made up of Equinox staff and alumni, people who are or were affiliated with our indoor group, all PHENOMENAL musicians who all marched WGI/DCI and have taught for years. We were so so stacked and it was such a joy to play with that many amazing DCI alums.” Current Equinox members were not included due to the strain of preparing for the WGI season just weeks away. Participants moved to Atlanta for an intensive week of training, including several “all day” rehearsals on site at the Mercedes Dome.
Creatively, Lyons said they had license to do what they wanted, “They let us write most of our own choreo and let us heavily embellish what their arrangers wrote for us, so we ended up with all kinds of back sticking and stick tricks in the show, stuff we knew would appeal more to the masses than technical drumming.” Jake was joined by Bluecoats alum Colin Brewer, 2010 Front Ensemble, with the majority of the drummers being former DCI performers as well.
Corinne Artis, part of the Bluecoats Color Guard in 2011, 2013 and 2014, was also a key participant for the halftime production. Georgia State’s Marching Band had an announcement come out in early December to current and past participants about being part of the LED cast. As with all parts of the Super Bowl halftime show, participants were not allowed to share their role in the event with friends and even family. Over the month, rehearsals added new layers on to the show, “Georgia State was on the LED cast, the light squares to the left and right of the stage,” Artis shared, “so we started by learning our drill and then every rehearsal we would add another cast, the lantern drones, the fans, the talent, until the whole production came together a few days before the game.
Alex Naughton, a member of the Bluecoats Color Guard from 2016 to 2018 was also a part of the LED cast alongside Reverie Winter Guard where he marches. He said, “It was interesting to see how much work goes into something that big.” He mentioned the performance coordinators “who have to work many long nights to get everything to work perfectly in the drones, LED lights, pyrotechnics, and drill for roughly 1,000 cast members. At that level, everything has to be perfect because if something goes terribly wrong it could be as Adam Levine said to us, ‘a career killer.’” Naughton’s favorite moment of the experience was getting to play the role of fan where he got to enjoy a Maroon 5 concert around ten times during rehearsals.
Of the experience, Artis said, “It was a really cool experience to see behind the scenes how many people come together from all over and how many hours were put in to create a unique 15-minute production. Very similar to another sport I know!” Brewer stated, "Having done DCI and WGI for a long time, big crowds aren't intimidating anymore. But this was a lot bigger than I imagined and it was like, oh this is actually happening." Lyons agreed, “I think we really gave many of them some life-changing performance opportunities.”