Blast Off!

Jonathan Jensen isn’t just a bassist in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, he’s a terrific composer and arranger. He leveraged the latter skills to write Blast Off!, an anthem for the US Space Force, and posted a video of him performing the work on Facebook. It went viral the same day; at the time this article was written, it racked up 157k views and 3.7k shares.

Regardless where you fall on the political spectrum, you’re going to have a good time. Image Carl Stalling wrote Monty Python tunes and you’ll be on the right track.

Tip: you may need to unmute the volume.

I reached out to Jenson to learn more about why he decided to write the song.

I’ve been writing snarky and satirical songs since I was a kid, said Jenson. “Social media has given me a way to get my stuff out to the world in a way I couldn’t before. Actually I’ve written serious songs along with all kinds of compositions and arrangements. Some of them I’m very proud of, though few people have heard them. Then I dash off a silly song, put on a costume and record a video on my cellphone, and suddenly I’ve hit the jackpot.

It IS fun watching this take off. I just hope some of my best work will someday get this kind of attention.

I had a video do very well a few months ago. A friend posted a photo of a wintry landscape, with the words “April, my ass!” (he lives in Mass.) I told him jokingly that I would write a song with that title. Next thing I know, I sat down and wrote the song, and dashed off a video at my piano, wearing a parka. It seemed to strike a chord, and I was amazed to see it get shared 1,000 times.

This has blown that effort out of the water, but I guess it’s similarly topical and current. “April. my Ass” had a short shelf life, but this will probably be around for a while.

I had posted previously about the Space Force, making fun of the idea. Someone commented that I should write them an official song. So I guess there’s a certain demand for a kind of Tom Lehrer-ian topical song, and I’ll see if I can come up with something equally popular in the future.

If you’ll indulge a little reminiscing, I had the pleasure of working with Jenson during my time in Baltimore <cough>20 years ago</cough>. Since he mentioned his best work getting attention, I highly recommend his absolutely lovely string orchestra arrangement of Ponce’s Estralita that we performed during a benefit concert with the Bel Air Chamber Orchestra (along with having Jenson in the ensemble). #GoodTimes

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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