We've heard from Andrea Birbilis seven times in the past, most recently in "Things I've Learned from Drum Corps" (August 26, 2005). I asked her to write about some of the more memorable things that have stuck with her courtesy of drum corps. Geez, after 30 years of this never ending circus/day camp on wheels, there are probably millions of Fanfare columns. I was trying to explain drum corps to one of my teacher friends. Imagine this, she thinks I am NUTS to spend my summer sleeping on gym floors, riding across the country and eating in parking lots. Drum corps really and truly made me the person I am today, and I am NOT getting on a soapbox. When I think back on all of the hundreds of people that I have marched and taught with, it amazes me that I am the one who stuck with it this long. I certainly wasn't the most talented -- perhaps just more stubborn than everyone else. When I was still marching with the Guardsmen, the corps was staying in Ft. Wayne, Ind. The baritone section decided to have a flag-raising ceremony at the school. Dressed in shorts and uniform jackets (yes, the orange swallow tail coats) they played "God Save the Queen" and ran the Union Jack up the school's flagpole. Needless to say, the principal was NOT amused. The friends that I made in drum corps have seen me through the best and the worst of times. When Northern Aurora had that horrific accident, I was truly humbled by the people who came out of the woodwork to help the corps (and me) out. I may have gone to school to become a music teacher, but honestly, I got a better education in music, classroom management skills, lesson planning and multitasking from the years I have spent in corps. If I am going to burn in Hell, let's have at it. When I marched with Watkins Glen Squires in 1978, we held a talent show somewhere in Kansas, en route to Denver for DCI Worlds. Steve Rondinaro was our corps director and also the chief judge of this event. Famed drum arranger/instructor Matt Savage was the winner. His "talent" was a re-enactment of a seizure. We were crazy people in our youth. Two things come to mind over the "centuries" I have been at this that are special moments never to be forgotten. The summer of 1980 was a long one. The Guardsmen endured one transportation nightmare after another. When we finally made it to Evansville and the Reitz Bowl stadium, we were happy to have a day of practice. Toward the end of the rehearsal day the corps learned that Spirit of Atlanta brass arranger/instructor Jim Ott had been killed in a traffic mishap the night before. Jim Campbell was our program coordinator at the time and I vividly remember how upset he was by this news. Practice was suspended and we were given extra time to relax and prepare for the evening show. Spirit of Atlanta would be in the contest, in spite of the sad situation they were facing. The Guardsmen's trademark song was a haunting rendition of "Greensleeves." We played it as a closer for several seasons and we also sang it in multipart harmony before each contest. It meant something very special to each and every corps member. On this particular evening, everyone's emotions were visible. Spirit of Atlanta played like they had never played before. At finale, our horn line walked over to Spirit and circled the corps, surrounding their corps with the beautiful strains of "Greensleeves." I think it was our way of holding the corps and telling them that we felt their loss. No one applauded. No one spoke. There wasn't a dry eye anywhere. This moment sticks with me all these years after the event and makes me realize the common thread that runs through each and every organization and crosses competitive divisions. I was on tour with Coachmen in 1995 and we were finishing out DCI championships week in Buffalo. After a free night in Niagara Falls, we learned that one of the Colts' kitchen volunteers had passed away suddenly from a heart attack while in Niagara Falls. This was an incredible shock to the entire Colts operation. The Division II & III corps used to have a communal "clean out your fridge" picnic on Friday of championships week. It was fun at first, but got to be a real pain after a few years. This particular year was one of the worst for getting corps to participate. After all, if you have cooked for your own corps every day, all day, WHY would you want to spend another day cooking for MORE people? Some of the directors asked Greg Orwoll what they needed in terms of support at this difficult time. Greg tried to convince us that all was well, but we knew otherwise. One of the Division II & III people came up with the idea to serve dinner to the Colts and their entire touring crew at semifinals that evening. Suddenly, people who didn't have a kind word for communal picnics were all fired up for cooking for the Colts. It became a contest to see which corps could some up with the most elaborate entree. We left the II & III picnic for the stadium and began to set up an amazing banquet in the parking lot for the Colts when they came off the field. I can't remember all of the stuff, but almost every II & III corps put something on the table. The Colts' kitchen crew seemed surprised that "perfect strangers" would do such a thing. The kids and the staff were stunned. I left the stadium that evening with the realization that while each corps might have different uniforms and different ability levels, we were all the same, and instinctively we all knew how and when to take care of each other.
Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition.
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.