In many ways, the same can be said for their parents who have to adjust to acting as a support system for their children from afar.
Meghan and Shawn Launier have two sons who are marching in drum corps this year — Peter, a second-year tenor drummer with The Cavaliers and Andrew, a second-year cymbal player with the Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets.
The Launier family is well embedded in the drum corps lifestyle — Meghan marched as a member of the Sacramento Freelancers and Shawn with several corps including The Cavaliers. As both parents and corps veterans, they said they are especially experienced with making sure their sons' marching experience goes smoothly, while also giving them free range to become advanced musicians and responsible adults on their own.
Shawn and Meghan said parents who are unfamiliar with the drum corps activity should remain confident in the corps' staff and stay informed.
“We believe the groups with which Peter and Andrew are marching — especially these two that they're in right now — take care of their members completely,” she said. “When Peter ended up in the hospital with a stomach bug last year, the corps was on the phone with us telling us what was going on every step of the way. They really take care of them very well.”
Parents who may feel overwhelmed or lost when supporting their children aren't alone, and they can often find resources in each other, Shawn said.
“You can track down other parents of kids who have marched,” he said. “The Cavaliers, like many corps, have a Facebook group for parents where you can reach out to others and stay connected once your kid becomes a member.”
Other such resources can also be found on DCI.org, which serves as an excellent starting point for uninitiated parents who might want to learn more about the drum corps activity.
For Meghan, sending her boys off becomes easier each summer. She's gone through what they're going through herself, and in this day in age they're much easier to reach compared to her marching days when pay phones and the post office were the main ways for corps members to stay connected to their lives back at home.
“We know our kids are okay because we did it,” she said. “That's the other aspect. We know that they're going to be okay at the end, because we've been through it in totally different circumstances.”
“As long as both the parent and marcher have trust in both themselves and in the corps' staff, everything should be fine,” Shawn said.
”Get the information you need to feel comfortable,” he said. “I've heard silly stories where a kid has some kind of minor injury and doesn't tell the staff there but tries to communicate with his parents about it. And what can his parents do, thousands of miles away?”
Meghan said she sees drum corps as an opportunity for her boys to gain solid work ethic and that she trusts them to put their hearts into the activity.
“Where both the kids are right now is completely their personality, so it works out pretty well,” she said. “We know their work ethic … so we know they're going to put 110 percent in every time they go out on the field.”
For Shawn, the skills gained from marching in a drum corps will do more than just make his boys better musicians and athletes.
“It's like a job,” he said. “The kids who come out of those experiences do so well. They can work in teams well and go into management easily.”
Shawn said the guidance from drum corps staff and other members can bring out the best in young adults who are new to the activity.
“They have something to do, they have responsibilities to their corps members, and they need to step up and meet those,” he said. “Hopefully, whatever corps they go to, the staff is competent enough to share with them, ‘This is what our goal is, this is how the judges are looking at things, this is how this relates to you as an individual.'”
For many young marchers, many life lessons are learned throughout the season and it all culminates in increased personal growth and a lifelong network of friends, Meghan said.
“All of our best friends have all marched together and you're going to have those friendships forever,” she said. “They will be there forever, 50, even 60 years from now … They're going to get this core group of people that they'll always be able to count on for the rest of their lives.”
The stress from added responsibility is worth it in the end says Shawn. They make for things the young adults in drum corps can look back on fondly when they're older.
“Drum corps was one of the greatest memories I have growing up and moving into adulthood,” he said. “And I really wish I had been able to do it sooner and longer.”