Drum Corps International
A Lifelong love affair with drum corps

A Lifelong love affair with drum corps

by Michael Boo

After running a Fanfare column about the Auburn Purple Lancers (September 17, 2004), I received notice about a marcher in the corps' 1974 DCI World Championships finalist year who started marching when he was 4 years old. After inquiring about this person on Drum Corps Planet (my favorite site for finding anyone in this activity), I was put in touch with Tim M. Martin, a board member of Carolina Crown. Here's Tim's story. The Martin Family is from Rochester, N.Y. My father, Harvey, has marched and been involved in drum corps since 1937. He marched in The Yellow Jackets of Gloversville, N.Y., and then the Grey Knights of Rochester, N.Y. Mom (Shirley) and Dad met in drum corps. She was a drum major for the Yellow Jackets. They married and had four sons. David (Boots) Martin, member of the DCA Hall of Fame, was a renowned soloist for the Utica Yankees, Mighty St. Joes, Rochester Crusaders, Phoenix and the Empire Statesman, and was a cofounder of the Statesman. Today, David runs the Hitmen Brass Band from Rochester, N.Y. They are the defending and three-time DCA I & E music ensemble champions. Garry Martin played in the Greece Cadets in the 1960s and '70s and then with the Rochester Crusaders, where he won a VFW National Championship in 1972. David also marched and my dad was the business manager and has since been enshrined in the Crusader Hall of Fame. I am the third child. I marched in the Shoreliners in the early '60s and then the Greece Cadets. My younger brother, Scott, marched with me. Scott played a baritone, like our dad. In those days we didn't play trumpets; we started with one-valve horns and then went to valve and rotary and then progressed to two-valve horns. Scott went on to march in the Cadets of Greece and won a DCI World Championships Class A title. Scott then marched with the Crusaders, and last year he was the drum major of the Mighty St. Joe's Alumni Corps. My brother David arranged the horn book for St. Joe's as well as the Cadets of Greece, Rochester Crusaders, Empire Statesman and several other corps and marching bands. He also played the solos from the pit in Empire and won several DCA rings. As a kid, I literally grew up in a playpen at Odenbox, the practice facility of the Grey Knights. From the time I could walk I was mimicking the drum corps. As I remember -- and memories get dull -- I was at first a little mascot in 1961 for the Shoreliners cadet corps, a parade corps that played in firemen's parades. I was always grabbing someone's horn and playing it. My parents used to have their drum corps buddies come over when the Rochester senior show was in town. One of these people was Tommy (Bucky) Swan from the New York Skyliners. Bucky would make me play for everybody as a little showoff. On my sixth birthday, he gave me my own mouthpiece, a Parduba double cup, just like Bucky played while legendary soloist of the Skyliners. The year was 1963. I was finally in the horn line and there was a group from my block in the corps, so we all went to the parades together. It was actually quite normal to be that young at that time in the neighborhood corps. The Shoreliners eventually became the Greece Cadets. The kids on the block all started fading away and the nucleus of these members are still friends today. I was a young soloist in the Shoreliners, mimicking my older brother playing "St. James Infirmary" in the cadet corps at age 6, my third year in the activity. Later I joined the Greece Cadets, which was a neighborhood corps. In those days, everybody on the street marched. We traveled on the Penn-York Circuit, competing with Oswego Black Knights, Fulton Gauchos, Melodeers (all-girl), Hawthorne Muchachos, Jersey Surf, Utica Yankees, Syracuse Marauders, Emmaus Sentinels, Auburn Purple Lancers and corps from every exit on the Thruway. I was playing solos for the Greece Cadets when Donny Allen (member of the DCA Hall of Fame) came and asked if I would be interested in joining the Purple Lancers in Auburn, N.Y. This was just prior to the 1974 season. The corps had been around for years in the Penn-York Circuit, but was never a really hot unit. The winter I joined was a different story. They were BIG and LOUD and were aiming to be an all-star corps, giving me a chance to play at the highest level of drum corps competition. I was excited to be part of what was happening. Famed arranger and instructor Corky Fabrizio was teaching the horn line. He had previously taught my brothers in the 1972 Crusaders. He pushed me to excel. I was one of 14 lead sopranos. We had high leads and regular leads. The high leads had to play double C while double tonguing and running backwards in the opener, "Divergents." The corps started off slowly. I eventually became a key part of the show, setting all the drill patterns. Our goal was set to make the 1974 DCI Finals that year in Ithaca, N.Y., "our turf." I remember being in that tunnel waiting for the rain to stop and the crowd chanting "East, East, East." We came on to chants of "Purple Power." The atmosphere was electric and that day we put on a show like never before. It all clicked and the crowd went wild. I think back on the closer as we exited the field. We played "If" by David Gates and Bread. (In those days, you started on one end of the field and finished on the other, covering the entire field during the show.) I was so charged up that tears were running down my cheeks and getting into my mouthpiece. I had to keep wiping my tears out of my mouth to keep playing. As we wrapped up with our big finale, we played so loud it was a power I had never experienced. The crowd was so crazy we knew we had achieved our goal of 12th place. As we paraded off the field, I looked around and everybody that marched that day was in the same state as me. One hundred young adults were crying their eyes out, an emotion that none of us could have anticipated. We actually ended up in 10th place in Prelims, a position we retained for Finals, despite not having the same emotion and falling a few points. After the show, everybody knew it was over. The corps folded. That was the last Purple Lancer corps. We had achieved our goal. The next year my dad and Jimmy Lennon came up with the idea to start a new senior corps using the all-star concept. We named it Phoenix. It was a Rochester-based senior corps and was started from a core of marchers from the Crusaders. The Phoenix was the best horn line I ever played in. In 1975 we won the Red Carpet Association (a requirement prior to being able to compete in DCA). We then went on to DCA where we came in sixth. Phoenix was a real wild experience. We were the Oakland Raiders of drum corps. We started from scratch. My mother headed a crew that went to J.C. Penney's for materials to make our uniforms. We got Corky Fabrizio to teach horns and Vinny Montacelli did our drill. It was like the Purple Lancers on steroids. Well, like the Lancers, Phoenix was gone in a couple of years. The intensity finally burned it out. That year at DCA, my brother Garry met a guy that was teaching the Kingsmen in California. He liked the Phoenix. My brother told him that I was one of the soloists and still had some eligibility. The instructor was Kenny Norman, who earlier was a famed instructor and arranger for the Kilties. My brother, my girlfriend and I decided to go west and see California. We bought a bread truck from Balta Brothers Pie Company. It had hundreds of thousands of miles on it and I think we paid only $300 for it. We fixed it up (a real hippie van), packed up my girlfriend and my brother and a few other friends and went West. This might just have started the movement where students came from all over to compete with their favorite corps. My girlfriend, Karen, and I met in drum corps and have been together since we taught the Oswego Black Knights together in 1975. Karen marched in the West Genesee silent guards in the early 70s. We have three sons; Shawn (20) Ryan (19) and Kyle (15). None of them have marched in drum corps. It was the winter season when we arrived in Venice Beach, Calif. I auditioned and made it as a lead soprano. I ended up playing the solos for the Kingsmen and became a leader in the corps. The director asked me to step up and I kind of became the morale leader. Those were the days of cults and communes, and in Phoenix we had this pyramid chant that we said brought power from the pyramids. I introduced this to the corps. We used it as a reason to become one (so I guess there was a power there somewhere). It was a tough year. I thought the corps was real good, but the judges did not. We not only had to compete with the Blue Devils and the Velvet Knights (whom I loved), we had to compete with the Kingsmen of the past, the winners of the first DCI World Championship in 1972. That year at DCI East, we even got beat by my younger brother Scott and the Cadets of Greece. This was my age-out year, and finally a corps that I spent a third of my life in (10 years) would win the DCI Class A World Championship. I was happy for my kid brother. The Kingsmen would not make Finals and the Auburn Purple Lancers would be the highest-ever finish for me in DCI -- until this year. Today, I am on the board of directors of Carolina Crown from Fort Mill, N.C. and help run the Night Beat show in Charlotte every year. As you know, my Crown kids came in seventh this year. I couldn't be more proud if it was myself on the field. I know how my previous directors felt when they watched me live my dream. It was a thrill to see my Crown kids achieve their own drum corps immortality. I addressed the corps here in Charlotte, only 11 days before DCI Finals, at the Night Beat show. I told them, "In tonight's show, you will perform in front of the biggest crowd in your drum corps lives." (We had 10,000-plus, a record crowd.) I went on to tell them of 30 years prior when I had a moment like they would experience tonight, and how today it still guides my life. It was a very emotional talk and I broke down a couple of times. I told them, "Suck in the memories and enjoy this moment and the next 11 days, because some day Carolina Crown would be your Purple Lancers." They took it to heart and made their own memories for the next 30 years. As I look back, I realize drum corps is a cycle that comes back to you in your life. You need to enjoy your time in corps and then give back so others after you can appreciate what you have left as your legacy to the next generation of drum corps kids. What I have achieved in my life can be directly correlated to my drum corps experience -- the confidence, the ability to commit and achieve against all costs, and the commitment to teamwork. I try to convey this to the members of the Crown, whom we refer to as the Crown Family. It is important to say that we as alumni of this activity need to understand just how fragile drum corps is today. There are corps that are no longer with us, but will live on in the memories of old guys like I have become, and that's a shame. I want to encourage all who marched to stay involved or get involved again with a corps. Provide financial help if you can. Donate your time and give back what drum corps gave to you -- memories! 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.