Send In The Clown Band
Todd Seabert belongs to a group that he describes as “very organized and serious, even though we look like a bunch of derelicts.” Todd, western Michigan regional manager for Maumee, Ohio-based Spartan Chemical Co., Inc., is a member of the “famous” Scottville Clown Band.
The Clown Band started in the early 1900s when a musical group of Scottville, Michigan merchants decided to dress as hillbillies and entertain at local carnivals. As the group
became more popular, the costumes became more risqué. During World War II, when most of the band members went off to war, the group disbanded, but reformed after the war in 1947. Today, the Clown Band performs in parades, festival beer tents and sit-down concerts. The gigs help raise money for charity, including scholarships for education in music and the performing arts as well as contributions to a hospice.
The band rehearses in spring, and performs in the summer and fall. There are well over 100 band members, all men, ranging in age from 18 to 80. As was the case in Shakespeare’s day, the Clown Band members play both male and the female roles. Todd says the funniest thing about being part of the band is that people recognize him and say, “Is that really you?”
Todd has been involved in some form of music since he started playing the trumpet 39 years ago. But after seeing the Clown Band perform in parades and beer tents, he was inspired to join after a friend became a member. However, you can’t just show up and join this band.
“You must be invited by a band member to participate in a rehearsal. Then, you establish yourself by your participation in rehearsals,” says Todd. “It’s not an official audition like the symphony might be — it’s more like ‘does this person fit in?’ If you’re interested in joining the band, a regular member sponsors you, and you submit an application to the band’s board of directors.”
After standing on the outside looking in the biggest surprise for Todd once he joined was the professionalism and musicianship of the band members. It’s a very disciplined, serious group, he says.
The band’s repertoire includes songs such as “Basin Street Blues,” “The Stripper,” “You Are My Sunshine,” fight songs of various Michigan colleges as well as the University of Notre Dame, and each branch of the military’s theme song. They also do medleys from Broadway shows and John Philip Sousa marches.
“Our ‘sit-down performance’ is a lot like going to see your local symphony’s pops concert,” says Todd.
For Todd, the most difficult part of being a member of the Clown Band is the costume.
“You’re responsible for your own costume. I started out really conservatively, wearing more or less a janitor’s jumpsuit and a silly hat,” he says. “When my neighbor saw me and asked me where my costume was, I told her I was ‘easing into it.’ She dragged me into her closet and outfitted me. Now my costume features sequins, flamingos and palm trees.”
He drew the line, though, at wearing stiletto high heels.
Gretchen Roufs, an 18-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns a marketing and public relations company in San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in “Freetime,” contact her at Gretchen@GretchenRoufs.com.
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