Michael J. Cesario
Michael J. Cesario meets us at his favorite corner café in New York City, where old neighborhood photos cover the walls and the coffee is strong. He’s quick with a welcome, but the voice we know from the Drum Corps DVD’s seems oddly subdued talking one-on-one. While shaking hands, he flips over the paper placemat, but he’s busted…his rough sketches cover it.
“I’ve always drawn,” he says, putting away the pen, “even as a kid it was my favorite creative outlet. Hand me a box of crayons and I was a happy pup.” By the time the budding young artist hits the age of nine he’s marched his first parade.
“The Cavaliers would come to my hometown for the first drum corps show of the year.” The Cavaliers visited NYC for the holiday? “Oh, no,” he laughed, “like all the best New Yorkers, I’m not from here! I was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and we used to call that early contest “Frostbite Falls”!”
So the veteran New Yorker is really a “Cheesehead”, and his twin inspirations, Art and Music, push him to design band uniforms…it’s that simple? “No, not at all! There were many years of creative pain and angst, suffering for my art…in other words, I went into Theatre. I worked to get a couple of degrees in Directing and Production Design and enjoyed a great career doing TV and stage productions… some magnificent teachers, some crazy producers…the tales are endless. It’s where I learned about character analysis, how to reveal inner qualities and individuality through clothing. I also learned how to enhance the figure, concealing some physical traits while augmenting others. But I never lost my passion for Marching Bands, Drum Corps, and Colorguards, so I performed and taught throughout my Grad and Undergrad years…flying from band camp to summer stock was pretty mind-boggling!”
In fact, the word “passionate” seems to take on new meaning when Cesario tells the tale.
“From sketchbook to final detail, I’m a perfectionist and can drive folks crazy, I know, but my passion was that I could take all those “tricks-of-the-trade” that I used as a professional Costume Designer and bring them to performance wear for young musicians.”
“I wanted them truly comfortable, and able to do all the athletic activities contemporary bands require. So we needed a full range of movement, a flexible garment that’s more fitted, more tailored, and more durable than anything else out there.” “My passion,” there’s that word again, “meant starting fresh at square one, with no pre-conceived notions of what a uniform is supposed to be.”
Eventually, Cesario had become Head of Design/ Technology at Purchase College, (today, he’s Professor Emeritus). Armed with the latest tools and a brilliant patternmaker, and using The Cavaliers and the Phantom Regiment as guinea pigs, a team began to gather the construction knowledge essential to creating something new, something truly special. The expertise and craftsmanship of FJM became the crucial factor in changing an entire industry. The results are on display in these pages. Inspiration? Passion? Yes, but there’s one other quality, Cesario insists. “Call it stamina, resilience, or endurance,” he insists “but we keep moving and growing…after all, a perfectionist is never really satisfied.” With that, he settles the tab and heads for the door, grabbing that placemat full of future designs. — Scott A. Winters