Student trumpeter Ethan Chilton, saxophonist Nathan Collins, and trombonist Steven Robinson (BM ’18) all started out in USC Thornton’s esteemed Jazz Studies program, but they’ve also put their musical chops to good use in recent years as part of the school’s cutting-edge Popular Music program. In fact, the trio has become such a fixture of the Carson Center stage that they’ve earned the informal title of Thornton’s “pop horn section.”
This summer, the trio is living up to its pop moniker as they tour the country with legendary singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Fogerty. The founder of the band Creedence Clearwater Revival and author of hits such as “Proud Mary” and “Bad Moon Rising,” Fogerty is also a Trojan parent — his son and touring guitarist, Shane Fogerty, graduated from the Popular Music program in 2014. Several months ago, he invited Chilton, Collins, and Robinson to join his band on more than 30 tour dates this summer, playing for upwards of 10,000 eager fans.
Needless to say, the experience has been eye-opening for the young musicians. Chilton, who just finished his sophomore year, has kept a colorful blog about his time on the road, along with a daily video log (see below) highlighting the antics of his fellow musicians.
“John [Fogerty] is a seriously inspiring man,” Chilton wrote after a rehearsal. “He’s so full of energy and positive encouragement. The music still makes him giddy to this day — playing rock ‘n’ roll for him is just as fresh and exciting as it was when he was in his early twenties.”
Chilton, Collins, and Robinson perform five songs on the tour, including “Proud Mary,” and they also get to march through the audience with a Bayou favorite, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
After more than a month of shows, however, the musicians have also grown accustomed to the frustrations of life on tour, from the perils of sleeping on a bus to the challenges of finding a place to practice that won’t annoy the crew (spoiler alert: a hotel room does not qualify). Perhaps the biggest challenge is keeping a positive mindset, show after show, week after week.
“We all miscommunicate, we all squabble, we all get tired of being pressed for time and then waiting around,” Chilton reflected after a particularly difficult day. “But we can all use the same strategies of being more truthful, more open, more respectful, and more mindful.”
The adventure isn’t over quite yet. Chilton, Collins, and Robinson will rejoin the Fogerty tour for six more dates across the U.S. and Canada after a well-earned two-week break.