Joel Barnes, a Crossmen mellophone player and a math major at Yale University, will be contributing a weekly column to starting today. Today's column has an alternate title, but I'll give you a chance to think of what it might be while I introduce myself. My name is Joel Barnes, and the first thing you should know is that I've marched in the Crossmen since 2003.

Joel Barnes
In my three years playing mellophone for the Crossmen I've grown so much as a person and learned so much that I thought it would be a great idea to share a little of what I've learned with all you, especially those of you who may be interested in joining a drum corps in the future. To avoid much beating around the bush, I'll just go ahead and say it: joining a drum corps is one of the most positive things you could possibly do with your life as a high school or college student. Of course, as with anyone, my drum corps experience is only one part of who I am, and other parts of my life are going to play a huge role in this column. My primary occupation right now is being a mathematics major at Yale University. The best part for you guys is that this is my senior year and I'm going to invite you along as I try to figure out what I do with my life! I'm eager to see how my drum corps experience influences my opportunities as I enter a career (or graduate school, as very well may be the case). One last thing you should know about me is that I am an into Ultimate Frisbee, a highly competitive intercolleigate sport. I noticed that one the ESPN2 broadcast much was made about the athletic aspects of drum corps, so hopefully soon I'll be able to give some firsthand insight into the relation between marching and playing "real" sports. All right, I've kept you waiting long enough. The alternate title for this column is "How do you measure a drum corps season?" (a reference to the ubiquitous "Seasons of Love"). One of the hardest things to get a proper perspective on in drum corps is that, unlike measuring a year, there actually is a way to measure a drum corps season, a number that first comes to mind when you hear the name of a corps along with a year -- and for me this summer that number was "14." Look up the year you marched and the corps you marched with on and sure enough, that number is the first thing you see. Everyone struggles with their attitude towards competition at some point (or even all the time). Sure it's easy to say you don't care, but then, what keeps you pushing yourself to the very edge every moment of practice? My idea when I thought of the title for this article was to point out the sheer magnitude of the drum corps experience. When I think back to 2005, I will surely never forget those last 60 minutes or so of the season, what it felt like to come off the field at semifinals having given the best performance of my life (no joke) and what it felt like in our last corps meeting. All the emotions bottled up over the season came welling up, and I knew I was making a huge liar out myself for telling my seat partner that I would just be happy it was over (I wasn't) and wouldn't be too upset if we didn't make finals (I was), and especially for saying that I wouldn't cry (I looked over at him, fortunately he was a big liar too). But that's just the last 60 out of 109,440. Look at the numbers just to see how unique of an experience drum corps is: Of those 109,440 minutes, 0 are spent in your own bed, 0 are spent in a private shower, 0 are spent sitting on a couch, 0 are spent watching TV, and 0 are spent surfing the Internet. On the other hand, 109,440 of those minutes are spent surrounded by the best friends you'll ever make, people who know you better than your own family. 25,000 or so are spent working towards perfection, a level of performance that most people will never know. About 300 are spent sharing yourself, your passion, with thousands of people as you perform for huge crowds. With that kind of perspective its easy to put a number like 14 in its place, to appreciate the hard work and passion that that number represented for you and your corps. I hope you enjoyed my first column, I hope to sort of alternate between serious and light-hearted peeks into my world, so don't get too bummed out or overwhelmed (those who know me know that the light-hearted side is really what I'm all about). Joel Barnes has completed three seasons with the Crossmen, where he served as mellophone section leader and soloist for the 2005 season. He is 21 years old (DCI class of '06), and in the off-season he keeps busy by attending Yale University, from which he intends to receive a bachelors degree in mathematics this coming June. Joel keeps his legs and chops in shape by playing on the Yale Ultimate Frisbee team, and with the Yale Precision Marching Band, respectively. Feel free to E-mail him at with questions regarding the Crossmen, drum corps in general, or your math homework.