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The Opportunity of a Lifetime
Music student Kyle Gemberling spends his summer playing trumpet in Disneyland
Written by Meredith Metsker, first published in Inland 360, arts and entertainment magazine
This summer, Kyle Gemberling's trumpet skills took him to the happiest place on earth.
Gemberling, 22, spent 11 weeks in Disneyland playing such diverse music as "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" to a medley of Stevie Wonder hits as a member of the 2012 All-American College Band. The group played five high-energy shows a day Tuesday through Friday in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park.
"The All-American College Band was good, bad, hard, fun," Gemberling of Lewiston said. "I mean, pretty much any adjective you can come up with it probably was at one point. My knees are still kind of recovering from all the moves we were doing. It was a hard gig."
Gemberling, a fifth-year UI trumpet performance major with jazz emphasis, auditioned for the highly competitive paid ensemble in March, marking his third attempt in three years.
The third time proved to be the charm. In May, Gemberling traveled to Anaheim, Calif., to begin the summer as third-chair trumpet.
"It was very exciting to finally attain that goal of mine, especially one I've been pushing toward for so long," Gemberling
For the first two weeks, Gemberling, and 21 other students from across the country, rehearsed about eight hours a day to perfect their performances of music from Disney movies like "The Incredibles" and "The Princess and the Frog." The band also played several medleys, including one with music from Disneyland attractions like Haunted Mansion and the Tiki Room.
Along with playing music, band members also incorporated marching band-style choreography, dancing, singing, and other various crowd-pleasers. Intent on promoting crowd interaction, band members often serenaded children or young women with a rendition of "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder.
A typical day for the band began at 10:30 a.m. with a bus ride to the park where the musicians would warm up, clock in, and either rehearse or have a clinic if a visiting musician was there. The 2012 AACB had clinics with the likes of John Clayton, Wycliffe Gordon and Wayne Bergeron.
At 1:15 p.m. band members changed into their uniforms and played their first set in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle at 2:20. About an hour later, they hit reset for a sit-down jazz set at the Hollywood Backlot Stage in California Adventure. At 5:10 p.m. the band performed patriotic music at a flag retreat ceremony. The band closed out each day with a performance before the daily parade on Main Street and a set in front of the train station in Disneyland's town square around 7 p.m.
In addition to playing trumpet, Gemberling also once sang a big band version of "Zero to Hero" from Disney's "Hercules" during a jazz set.
Gemberling said one of the things that separates the AACB from any other ensemble he's been in is the amount of energy that's required to perform each set every day.
"It's unlike anything I've ever been in, in the sense that you can never take time off There was never like a down time or a down day where we didn't have a lot of people come out," Gemberling said.
He said there were times when he was playing at the flag retreat ceremony, and he could see all the way down Main Street to Sleeping Beauty's castle, and there were people packed everywhere.
"It was crazy all the people that were around," Gemberling said. "You never knew who you were going to see, what kind of environment you were going to be around, what kind of kids would be there, how willing they would be to play along."
Gemberling said the AACB director Dr. Ron McCurdy, a professor at University of Southern California, told the band a story about a fictional family called the Griswolds from Pocatello to keep them motivated throughout the summer. According to McCurdy, the Griswolds were a low- to middle-class family who saved up for three years to take their kids to Disneyland.
"And they don't care what is going on. They are going to see it all and by God, they are going to have a great time," Gemberling narrated. "So when they show up and see us, they don't care that we've played 'Bubbles Was a Cheerleader' 300 times over the summer. For them, it's the very first time that we've played it, and we have to make it look like it's the first time and treat it like it's the first time we've ever even touched that show."
Before some of the shows, McCurdy would introduce each band member and what university they attend. Gemberling, along with the first-chair trombone player, Jenny Kellogg, both represented the University of Idaho.
"It's kind of neat to come from a school that may not be well known, but let me be proof that at least our music school has one hell of a program," Gemberling said.
He also said that every once in a while when McCurdy yelled "University of Idaho!" a random Vandal fan in the crowd would cheer. Despite the support from fellow Vandals, Gemberling said he did run into one Boise State fan in Disneyland.
"Some girl was cheering for BSU and I got to be like, 'There are no BSU people in this group, but there are two Vandals, so go Vandals,' " Gemberling said.
Gemberling said he first knew he wanted to be in the All-American College Band when he was in high school and heard his father, Gary Gemberling, tell stories from his time in the band in 1975 in Disney World in Florida. His dad is band director at Lewiston High School.
As a second-generation AACB member, Gemberling said he hopes his time in Disneyland helped make an impact on someone who watched him perform, just like his dad's stories had an impact on him.
"It was little stuff, just kind of over a period. I made a difference in some way, whether it was just making people happy or giving them something to be excited about or possibly some kid who was out there sqying, 'Oh my gosh, I want to do that'," Gemberling said.
When he wasn't playing trumpet and performing all day, Gemberling enjoyed free admission to Disneyland and California Adventure as a perk of being a Disney cast member.
Gemberling returned to Moscow two weeks ago where he continues to perform in 11 different ensembles in the Lionel Hampton School of Music and the Moscow community. He will graduate from the University of Idaho in the spring.