FORT PIERCE FOLKS
THE WANDERING MUSICIAN
Sometimes following a dream can lead someone to some
BY SUSAN BURGESS
ANTHONY INSWASTY PHOTOS
Bryan Chauncey Mays of Fort Pierce plays several brass instruments, among
them, the flugelhorn. Flugel means wing in German and refers to its shape.
as keeping me from getting in trouble,” he said with a smile.
“She gave me a trombone which I still play.”
He was still in high school when he got his first professional
job playing at a party in Natural Bridge State Park in
Slade, Kentucky. His bandmates were his high school principal
and his band director. “That was something,” he said, still
delighted by it.
In 1976, he headed for Morehead State University in
Kentucky on a music scholarship and stayed there until he
had his master’s degree in music. He had played in his high
school jazz band. He liked Morehead because it had a good
jazz program, he said. But he was in for years of constant
practice and study — not only the typical undergrad courses
and then working on his masters, but also intense music
courses. He took years of complex music theory and learned
to identify chords when he heard them, sight-read music and
sing the notes he was reading without accompaniment.
“For most people who want to be in a band or orchestra,
reading music swiftly and easily is a must,” he said. “But
when people hit music theory, a lot of them drop out.”
From 1984 to 1999, Mays toured the world as a musician
or band leader on cruise ships. “I think I went everywhere
except the Far East,” he said. That was how he spent four
months in Alaska, he said, recalling flying to a glacier on a
helicopter and standing there staring into the depths of a
crevasse. The ship he was on was docked in the icy state.
mighty strange places. For Bryan Chauncey Mays, whose
dream was to become a musician, it led to traveling the
world, playing in every state except Hawaii, scuba diving in
the Black Sea and spending four months in Alaska.
Mays is a professional trombone player, although he also
plays other instruments including tuba, trumpet, guitar,
keyboards and percussion instruments. He’s most likely to be
seen around town playing trombone with the Fort Pierce Jazz
& Blues Society or the For Dancers Only Band, also known as
the FDO Band.
But he has met and played for celebrities, some of whom
are household names, throughout his 52-year career. Think
of The Who with Roger Daltrey, Johnny Mathis, Little River
Band, Hugh Jackman, Weird Al Yankovic, actress Bernadette
Peters and well known Broadway shows like The Lion King
and Bye Bye Birdie. With the Craig Turley Orchestra, he toured
Right now Mays is on a five-city Florida tour with one of
the nation’s most famous singers, Johnny Mathis. In January,
Mathis performed many of his hits at the Sunrise Theatre in
Mays, a native of Kentucky, was 12 when he started playing
trombone. He wanted to join band in sixth grade, but had
to wait until it was offered in seventh grade.
“When you join beginning band, they teach you how to
play,” he said. He loved it. He practiced hard and by the time
he was a sophomore in high school he said he knew that his
career was music. His mom was happy — “I think she saw it
Mays, known by his middle name, plays the BBb tuba. It is the largest of the
brass instruments. He most frequently plays the trombone.