Journey to the Orient | Sound Stories & Interviews | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
The Source Weekly’s reporting is made possible by the power of your support. Be a part of it!
Pin It

Journey to the Orient 

MarchFourth Marching Band fill unlikely role as U.S. ambassadors to China

Forget about Dennis Rodman's goodwill tour of North Korea; that was nothing more than tabloid fodder. Portland's giant marching band MarchFourth (M4) just returned to the states after completing a two-week U.S. State Department-sponsored exchange to improve relations with China.

As unconventional as it may seem to have an American marching band playing at universities and art centers, consider that it was table tennis tournaments encouraged by President Nixon in the '70s that first opened up communications with China. Nearly four decades later the cultural rifts between the two largest economic powers remain large. Perhaps a massive group of brass musicians, drummers and stilt walkers can help lay a few planks in the bridge between the two.

"Our intention is always to cause a crazy party, get people to throw their hands in the air and dance and yell," said band stilt walker Aaron Lyon in an interview with the Source. "Part of the uniqueness that helped us do that [in China] is our composition of an international language through music and dance."

M4 has gained traction as a national—and international—touring act as a result of goliath shows that can spill out into the crowd with costumed stilt walkers and fire dancers. A bright brass section flits atop taut drums and a bevy of other instruments, like bass guitar and crashing cymbals, rocketing shows into momentous performances glued together by band leader John Averill. Translation: Even in China this group was irresistible.

"People told us the crowds would be reserved and wouldn't be expressive," said Lyon. "When we got there we found that it wasn't true. We were offering something unique that they hadn't seen before, and it was great to see thousands of Chinese people break through a kind of bubble and celebrate the moment."

According to Lyon, the performers all took their roles as ambassadors very seriously.

"I do a little bit of emceeing during our shows, and I wanted to have something prepared for the Chinese people," continued Lyon. "One of the things I will generally ask the crowd is, 'Are we having fun?' So I learned how to say sort of the equivalent in Chinese. The literal translation was actually something like 'Are our hearts so open that we are enjoying our time together?' I always got a great response. People would come up to me after the show and tell me how well I said it and that they really appreciated it."

MarchFourth Marching Band

8:15 pm Friday, June 21

4 Peaks Music Festival

About The Author

Ethan Maffey

Both a writer and a fan of vinyl records since age 5, it wasn't until nearly three decades later that Oregon Native Ethan Maffey derived a plan to marry the two passions by writing about music. From blogging on MySpace in 2007 and then Blogspot, to launching his own website, 83Music, and eventually freelancing...
Pin It

Speaking of On Stage


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Ghost Town Blues Band

Ghost Town Blues Band - Diamond Hitch Ranch

Sun., May 22, 6 p.m.
Submitting an event is free and easy.

Newsletter Signup

Get Central Oregon daily news
directly in your inbox

Get Social

Latest in Sound Stories & Interviews

  • Croce Plays Croce

    • May 18, 2022
    AJ Croce, son of the late Jim Croce, brings the music of his father to the Tower More »
  • Source Material: Spring Catchup

    • May 11, 2022
    Music from Central Oregonians you may have missed, and Kendrick Lamar's return More »
  • A Q&A with Zach Alder

    • May 4, 2022
    Diggin' Dirt's lead singer shines a light on the Humboldt County funk band More »
  • More »

More by Ethan Maffey

Want to advertise with us?

For info on print and digital advertising, >> Click Here

© 2022 LAY IT OUT INC | 704 NW GEORGIA AVE, BEND, OREGON 97703  |   Privacy Policy

Website powered by Foundation