Drum Corps International
A drum corps journey

A drum corps journey

by Drum Corps International

Interlude is a section of DCI.org dedicated to periodically telling the longer, more in-depth stories of the drum corps experience. If you have an essay that perhaps metaphorically relates to larger life, this is the place for it (writers seeking an online clip, here's your chance). Send your completed essays, along with a brief bio and even a picture (and your own e-mail address, if you so choose), to content@dci.org with the subject line "Interlude." We look forward to hearing from you!

By Ralph Vega

Marching drum corps is actually something most people do limited to one section. You have fun with, say, the baritone line, try to master it, and the next thing you know you've aged out.

Being section leader of the trumpet section at home, band captain, soloist of the jazz band, and many other things I did during the fall at school were just things I felt I had to do since I was already committed to that instrument.

But just playing lead soprano for me wasn't enough. I needed to broaden my drum corps experiences.

One day my best friend, Lee Ann Sauer, asked me to go to guard rehearsal with her. After just watching her body warm up, I knew that color guard was something I wanted to do. I took a rifle home that night. I started practicing with Lee Ann, she taught me the basics, and after that I was hooked.

So after marching soprano over the summer and then marching with the Alliance of Miami winter guard in 2002 (where I had such a great experience thanks to Tony Florio, Luis Betences, Erika Crosby, Shelba Waldron and Johnny Amos), I knew that color guard was something I wanted to do, while still keeping up with music education. Color guard to me is not just rifles, flags and sabres, but a sport of musicality and emotion.

But there was a big issue looming in the background -- the Colts, my drum corps home, did not allow males in the color guard at that point. So for the summer of 2002, I decided that I wanted to march with the Cadets.

After making that decision, I knew that the hardest thing I had to do was leave the Colts. At that point of my life they were my family, everything I needed, and nothing else had filled that void that I was missing at that major part of my life.

Everything I did in school, home, or even in front of the high school (I was teaching at that point) I did to become better as a person and to represent the Colts. To this day I still remember standing outside Ralph Wilson stadium in Buffalo, N.Y., after our finals performance in 2001 and hearing Greg Orwoll say, "You are now Colts forever. Not just here in New York, but you represent this organization where ever you go, represent it greatly." Those words will carry on with me to the grave.

During the summer of 2002 while marching the Cadets, one of my favorite moments was watching the Colts perform in San Antonio. That point in time made me realize why I did march with the Colts. That performance moved me in a way that even at that point of the season I didn't feel during a show as a member.

I still talked to the members of the Colts during the summer because I missed them so much. I spent most of my time close to their busses after shows, laughing and hating the fact that I wasn't getting in their bus at the end of the night.

But marching with the Cadets gave me the ride of a lifetime. I was blessed with the experience of marching with some of the greatest color guard members in the activity, and I being taught by one of the greatest staffs in the activity. What I learned that summer was beyond anything I could put into words. After that summer with the Cadets I knew that teaching color guard was something I needed to do. I needed to take everything I learned at the Cadets and pass it on.

The following winter I went back to Alliance and decided that marching in the Cavaliers would even further my knowledge of color guard. The shows that they put on the field were something that I wanted to be a part of. To march in an original composition was a great way to study and learn many things -- not just from a color guard standpoint, but from a musical and percussive outlook as well.

That summer was one I will never forget. Marching in the Cavaliers was a decision I will never regret. That age-out summer of 2003 was the best summer I was ever a part of. Being on the Cavaliers' weapon line with great talented individuals, and putting together a great auxiliary I and E routine (along with Tommy Allen) and being announced winners in front of a drum corps crowd, was one of the greatest highs I've ever experienced.

Being taught by Bruno Zuccala was just an even greater joy, for now I see him as one of my own family members.

Having the most amazing show I ever marched in happen on finals night, with the Cavaliers, during my age-out summer and in my home state, was one of the greatest things that could've ever happened to me.

After aging-out I thought I was complete. But, after moving to the Northwest to march the Northern Lights Independent World's all-male cast color guard, I received an e-mail from Greg Orwoll, stating that the Colts were allowing males in the color guard for the first time this coming summer.

Starting out as a horn player with the Colts and finishing my career with one of the best color guards in the activity was a long experience that could only end in me wanting to share everything I have learned throughout the years with the corps that made it ALL possible for me -- the Colts. It is a dream come true to be a part of the staff that will educate those kids. It's the completion of my DCI experience.

You see, throughout this drum corps journey, I have represented the Colts no matter what corps I was marching with.

This activity was introduced to me in 1996 and will be a part of me forever. Even if I'm just an alumni or an educator in the great activity of DCI, I will always be a part of it. And to have somewhere that you know you are always invited is something amazing to be a part of.

I will end with a quote that Jeff Fiedler said to the 2003 Cavaliers after our last rehearsal: "Life is the one thing that will let you smile, laugh and cry, and still allow you to look up at the stars at night."

At the end of it all, through the laughs, and smiles, and tears, I can still look up at the stars at night and be grateful for my experiences.