Drum Corps International
A Life in drum corps

A Life in drum corps

by Drum Corps International

The following was contributed by Mike Doherty. My name is Mike Doherty, and my wife is Roberta (Bert). We are drum corps nuts from way back. I grew up in Ottawa, Ill., and my brother, Marty, joined the Ottawa Crusaders as a drummer in 1961. My parents wouldn't let me join until 1966, and when I did, I played soprano because I didn't want to be in the same section as my brother. I marched with Ottawa until I graduated from high school in 1971. I went to college in Casper, Wyo., and you guessed it, I joined the Troopers that winter. I got to know Jim Jones and his wife, Grace, and writers/instructors Gene Monterastelli and Jack Meehan, who taught me drum corps inside out. In Casper, I really grew up as an adult and learned a lot about life and the world. The corps had great teachers and members. I got to march in the first four Drum Corps International World Championships and traveled the country like no other corps was doing at that time. I met tons of people who are still close to me. Unfortunately, I aged out after the 1975 season and had no idea what to do with myself. I would have hung around the corps if Mr. Jones had allowed, but he made sure ageouts got on with their lives. If you weren't a cowboy, there was not a lot to do in Casper. During my last year, Bill Schutters -- a former Royal Airs and Troopers member -- just got out of the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps and was teaching the Troopers drum line. During the summer, I asked him all about the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps. Being from the Midwest, I knew about Truman Crawford, as he had taught Royal Airs. I also knew the Marines were the only organization that one could join and do drum corps and get paid for it. Bill said I would have no trouble being in the Marines, but I would have to go through boot camp like everybody else. So, I decided to go for it and went to boot camp from October through December in 1975. I was surprised that I felt like it was just an extension of my drum corps summer. I arrived at the Marine Barracks at 8th & I in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 1976, and I fit in just fine -- maybe too fine. After Casper, everything else was a bit of a comedown. My first couple of years there, I learned the Marine Corps way of doing things and also took in all the junior and senior corps shows I could on the East Coast. Finally, in 1978, the Marine Corps schedule during the summer was not too heavy. That helped, because Truman Crawford was judging senior corps that year. So, I went up to Reading, Pa., and tried out and made the Buccaneers soprano horn line. That started me living the ultimate drum corps dream. I did the Marine Corps stuff all week long (and was paid for it) and then on Saturdays during the summer, I moonlighted by driving to where Reading was practicing and marched the show that night. We had a pretty good corps for the next few years. Now for my wife Bert's story. She was born in Brooklyn and then moved to northern New Jersey in the 1960s, where she started marching with the Stardusters All-Girl Drum and Bugle Corps in 1964. Her dad was the quartermaster. In 1972, she and some of her friends went down to join the Hawthorne Muchachos junior corps, where she marched for the 1972 and 1973 seasons. We were both at the first two DCI World Championships in Whitewater, Wis., but did not know each other then. She didn't march in 1974, but in 1975, she marched with the Polish Falcon Cadets, her last junior corps. She still wanted to march, but at the time, all the seniors in New Jersey were strictly all male. In 1977, Reading started to let women join. She started marching with them in 1978. I noticed her during the summer. She was in the guard and she stood out because she had the typical thick New Jersey accent. Not much happened between Bert and myself until we were practicing in August at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania for the show that night, and the guard member who opened the show next to me happened to quit. The instructors moved Bert in next to me to march that spot and she had to learn the whole show and guard work for the new spot and then march it that night for the show. Well, she was totally honked off, to say the least, especially because it was in the middle of the summer. During rehearsal, when we had our first break, I asked her if I could "buy her a drink of water." Some line, huh? Well, she got through the drill and the show and did all right and afterwards, we got to talk and that started our relationship. From there it grew and it was great how close our drum corps backgrounds were. In 1979, the Buccaneers won the DCA Championship and Bert and I got married that November. It was a big Marine Corps and drum corps wedding. As you know, trying to explain drum corps to someone with no idea what it is usually does not work out. I started to help write the drill for the Marines and do some teaching. That added to my drum corps dream, and Bert fell in just fine with the Marines, as opposed to most of the other Marine wives who didn't know drum corps. We marched with Bucs again and won the DCA Championship in 1980. Then 1981 rolled around. Not to get too deep into this, but the 1981 Bucs were the best corps I ever marched with. Better than the Crusaders, Troopers and Marines -- and that is saying something. We lost only one show until the DCA prelims, but we didn't win the championship. I was crushed to the point of giving up on all drum corps. I got out of the Marines in September of 1981 and didn't do much for a long time. Bert was also down, but not as bad as it had hit me, so she was able to keep my spirits up. There is a lot more to this story, but that is another book. Bert still wanted to march with Reading the next year, so I said that I would support her and drive there and do all that she would need. I did that, and around May of 1982, when the corps started practicing outside, Ralph Pace (who was writing the drill) saw me just standing around. He knew my background, so he called me over and asked if I wanted to help teach the drill. About that time, I got over most of my doldrums and wanted to get back into corps, but not as a marching member -- and I still wanted nothing to do with the greater activity. Ralph said I should start teaching the drum line, because that was the time when drum lines started to move around and not just go up and down the 50-yard line. Bert still marched in the guard and I became a drill instructor. She stopped marching in 1992 and I finally gave up doing drum corps in 1999. During that time, I did a whole bunch of stuff like from being staff coordinator to running rehearsals and all sorts of stuff. Towards the last couple of years, I kind of felt that drum corps was passing me by. We still keep in touch with drum corps and subscribe to Drum Crops World. We still go to DCI and DCA shows; including the shows at Hershey, Pa., and Allentown -- and of course the Reading senior corps show, which seems like old home week because we see just about everyone we know there. I got to represent the Troopers during DCI's 20th anniversary celebration ceremony in Madison in 1992, which was quite an honor. Drum corps was my life, but it was almost my death as well. On July 19, 1997, I was riding in one of Reading's buses when we were traveling up to Rochester for a show the next day. We left Reading about midnight so we could practice all day before the next night's show, the routine we had on most traveling weekends. I had the third seat behind the bus driver all to myself, so I threw down my pillow and went to sleep. When I woke up on Sunday, a whole day later, I was in the hospital. The bus had crossed the white line Saturday morning and had run into a semi truck, the trailer hitting the bus where I was sleeping. The fact I was sleeping might have saved my life. I don't remember a thing from the accident. I was injured fairly badly and was the only person removed from the scene by helicopter. I had severe mouth, gum and eye injuries, plus glass cuts and bruises. On the July 22, I was moved to a trauma center in Baltimore and they rebuilt me there with bone grafts, implants and fake teeth. My mouth was wired shut and I could only drink liquids for a couple months. I was going to represent Troopers again at DCI's 25th Anniversary celebration at the Orlando World Championships, but obviously, I couldn't do that. We had tickets and Bert got me on a plane and we went down for the shows. I survived OK. During the first couple of weeks of my rehab, the outpouring of support from the drum corps family was overwhelming. I got cards and letter from lots of people from other corps. The entire Hawthorne Caballeros corps signed and sent a card. It was a great feeling and I made it to the DCA Championships that year. To my surprise, I was inducted into the Reading Buccaneers Hall of Fame in November of 2000 and that really touched me. I thought at first that they wanted to get me back into the corps, but that was not the case. Thank you to everyone who has made drum corps such a part of the lives of Bert and myself. 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 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.