Drum Corps International
A Few personal Thanksgiving thoughts

A Few personal Thanksgiving thoughts

by Michael Boo

I get to read a number of e-mails from people who offer thoughts and memories for future "Fanfare" columns. Call me silly, but reading what makes people tick in this activity -- and what about drum corps turns them on -- gives me a warm glow.

Marching music mercenary Mike Boo.
Last Christmas morning, I started the day at my church after directing my church vocal and handbell choirs during our Christmas Eve midnight service. Then I went home and watched about two hours of historic DCI broadcasts from the Legacy Series of DVDs. It was Christmas morning, I needed to get to bed so I could drive to my parents, and here I was watching drum corps from a variety of years. It hit me that my experiences in and around drum corps was the gift I gave myself; or, more accurately, it was the gift I allowed people -- whom I've come to love so deeply -- to give to me. I only regret that much of society doesn't know about this gift that keeps us smiling all year and makes us positively giddy during the summer. And that's why we must continue to embrace each other and cherish each other's contributions to the activity -- whether one marches, is a parent, fan, staff member, volunteer, whatever. Happy Thanksgiving to all who keep drum corps alive. And thanks to all those people who will buy drum corps items for their loved ones for the upcoming holiday season. Your support of the activity is vital. And, if I may be so bold, please keep your story ideas and offerings coming in for future "Fanfare" columns. You've been so wonderful in the past and I eagerly anticipate what you'll be sending me in the future. Now that we've officially entered the Christmas shopping season ... As Tiny Tim from "A Christmas Carol" said, "God bless us, every one." A few weeks ago, I read a thread on Drum Corps Planet (check it out if you haven't yet) asking readers about their most special drum corps "moments." The following is what I wrote down at that time. Incidentally, this weekend is the anniversary of my indoctrination into drum corps, when I first wore a drum corps uniform. A friend from my music college in Chicago, David Allie, dragged me kicking and screaming to a Cavaliers' rehearsal in the late fall of 1974, the rehearsal a week before Thanksgiving. (David was marching in the soprano section for 1975.) Rehearsals were on Wednesday nights, as most the corps was still local. I had absolutely no interest in going along, but he promised I'd enjoy watching the rehearsal and I might learn something. I had seen one drum corps show my entire life, in 1972 in a small town near where I grew up. I enjoyed it, but didn't think it was for me. But then in 1974, sitting in the rehearsal hall, listening to the horn line warm up, I could feel my soul vibrate. Then the horns started to work on the music. I was mesmerized. And without quite understanding how it happened, I was sized up for a uniform and given the xylophone parts for the Park Ridge Christmas parade, which was Thanksgiving Saturday. My first real drum corps "moment." Trying to explain to my parents why I was leaving home Thanksgiving Saturday to march a parade was a challenging experience. And then trying to explain that I "thought" I had joined a drum corps was like trying to justify running off with the circus. "But you'll have to give up your summer job, won't you?" "Yes," I replied, "but I think this is something that could be good for me," or something like that. The parade was on a morning of frigid cold. My hands froze up, and the drum major, Doug Gengler, came over, put my hands inside his, and blew on them to warm them up. I thought, "Wow, these guys care for each other, even if they don't know me yet." The parade was miserable ... I was frozen by the end and could barely feel my digits. I wasn't sure I wanted many more drum corps "moments." Yet, by the end, something had happened to me. I felt I belonged and I had to stick around to find out what would happen next. I ended up filling a horn hole for the season and played xylophone and then marimba for 1976 and 1977. And I consider those three years crucially important to my development as a person. Fast forward to 1996, the year Phantom Regiment and Blue Devils tied for the DCI Division I World Championship. By then, I was well entrenched in my capacity of writing for DCI -- program books, liner notes, whatever. I was on the field to hear both corps go through their victory run-throughs. I had earlier told a drum corps friend, David Scott, that I had become rather analytical in my approach to drum corps during the summer, as part of my job required me to write about the season and the corps once everything was over. He said he hoped I hadn't lost my ability to be "turned on" by corps. So, here I am on the field, and Phantom is going through Shostakovich's "Finale from Symphony No. 5." The music is building up steam and the corps is, section-by-section, filling in the big arc during the big chordal climax. I don't know what happened, but when the contras filled in the last part of the arc with a rumble that rearranged my DNA, I freaked. The warm-up of Cavaliers' horn line inside the corps hall all those many years ago, the company front hit in "Let It Be Me" that I still vividly remember from the first time I heard Spirit of Atlanta in 1978, the multitude of times I sat in the audience at Blue Devils' rehearsals in the early 1980s watching Wayne Downey do his magic, a breakfast I went to with Dennis DeLucia at DCI South in Birmingham in 1980, watching George Zingali bring magic to Garfield Cadets during hot afternoon rehearsals of cleaning and changing drill in 1984 ... everything ... it just came back in that one moment and I was absolutely overwhelmed and not in control of my reaction or senses. As recounted by Dave Scott, I threw my arms in the air and started jumping up and down as if I was on a pogo stick. And then I grabbed someone next to me and hugged them. I had no choice but to share my joy with someone else on the field. I had to confess to him that, yes, I was "turned on." And it felt good. Another "moment." Funny thing is, the more I write for DCI, the more I get "turned on" and have "moments" on a regular basis. It's a continual emotional release, and I doubt I could ever explain it to anyone who isn't involved in drum corps in some capacity. Especially precious is the DCI.org stuff I get to do during the year, and even more so during the summer, when I get to talk to the kids and hear why THEY do drum corps. It reaffirms why I went through drum corps myself, and why I must stay involved. In addition to my friends and family, I am eternally thankful for everything I've been blessed with this Thanksgiving weekend. In addition, I'm thankful to you, the readers. You give me purpose and encouragement as I write, the one thing it seems God put me on the planet to do for the sake of drum corps. I do feel it's a special honor ... and a responsibility ... and I feel blessed by it. I don't think I could ever say it better than Charles Dickens, through the voice of Tiny Tim. "God bless us, every one." Happy Thanksgiving. Mike Fanfare archives 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 masters 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.

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