eXtra Access: The Birth of a Rhythm X Uniform

Video by: Adam Kimak | Article by: Mike Scott
Special Thanks to Marlene Miller, Byron Valentine, Scott Winters, Tim Fairbanks, and the entire FJM organization.

Each year the cast, staff, and designers of Rhythm X spend thousands of hours developing the show that fans see at the WGI World Championships in Dayton. For most, the work of the cast and staff is what amazes and inspires fans each year. However, while all that hard work is an incredible feat of musicianship, hard work, and dedication there is another equally incredible process happening much farther behind the scenes. It too includes thousands of hours of work from designers, and people passionate about their craft. This is the work of Fred J. Miller, Inc. 

Marlene Miller, President/CEO of FJM, Inc.

Marlene Miller, President/CEO of FJM, Inc.

This week’s episode of eXtra Access takes us on a short journey that just barely scratches the surface of the design and construction of the Rhythm X uniforms. FJM is the exclusive uniform provider of Rhythm X, Inc. supplying both the Percussion and the Winds uniforms. The organizations have a rich history together - having worked together on the development of what we now recognize as an “indoor drumline” costume.

Rhythm X and FJM joined forces first in 2004. Rhythm X, Inc. President and then Program Coordinator and Designer Tim Fairbanks had recently begun working with FJM on uniforms for the Centerville High School Indoor Drumline. The "Rhythm X Performance Ensemble” joined the duo and the 2004 uniform was created for the show AudioVisual. Until this point, the world of indoor drumline uniforms was a collage of outdoor marching band uniforms and homemade costuming. It was the collaboration between Rhythm X and FJM, Inc. that spawned the idea of taking a Cesario jacket (made for outdoor marching band and drum corps) and using the pattern on materials being used indoor. This method is still used today for most indoor instrumental uniforms.

Today, FJM has grown to become the most influential designer and manufacturer of costuming for bands, drum corps, color guards, and indoor instrumental ensembles. Rhythm X, Inc. now works each year with FJM designer Byron Valentine to create the uniforms you see on the Percussion and Winds World-Class stage. Once the design process is complete, FJM begins the arduous task of constructing a uniform made-to-measure for each individual performer of both ensembles. This process includes an array of incredible digital tools, automated cutting, and computer-generated coordination as well as a remarkable amount of man-made work. 

Take this year’s percussion uniform as an example. Each uniform you see in the X15 production When One Door Closes… is a completely unique creation. Every piece of piping and screen printed fabric is trimmed by hand, then also sewn by hand. Because each uniform is a unique pattern and each performer wears a different size, the individual work done by a real person in order to make this uniform complete is astounding.

With the development of digital screen printing, the uniforms of FJM have become all the more refined and customizable. In 2013 Rhythm X performed the show The Man in the Arena where the words of Roosevelt’s famous speech were printed along the coat-tails and jacket. This year you will find screen printing all over the Percussion uniform and along the pants and jacket of the Winds uniform, for their show Uncharted Territory. This digitally printed fabric must be cut by hand so that the pattern is in the correct orientation, then sewn together with the rest of the parts to create a completed costume.

Without the incredible support and unequivocal quality of FJM costumes, the performance ensembles of Rhythm X, Inc. would not be what they are today. The success of Percussion, and the sensational start of Winds at Rhythm X is due in part to the tremendous relationship that Rhythm X has shared with FJM over the years.

Rhythm X, Inc. President Tim Fairbanks and CEO Mike Scott tour the FJM facilities with President/CEO Marlene Miller.