This is the first installment of "High Release," a new weekly column by Allison Owen on DCI.org which will appear every Monday (Tuesday next week, because of Labor Day).
Owen is a sophomore at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn., who plans to audition for a corps in November. "I'm in the SHHS guard and I like writing, dancing, performing, traveling, photography and having fun. As for after high school/college, I don't know what I want to do ... I just know I would like to do something dealing with color guard, computers or writing," Owen said. Hey there fellow drum corps fans! My name is Allison (you can call me Alli if you want) and I'm a 15-year-old sophomore. I've been in my school's color guard for close to two years now and I'm loving every minute of it. This past indoor season I got the opportunity to dance with our indoor drum line and somehow I discovered drum corps. I was fascinated that such an amazing organization had been in existence for so long, yet I never even knew about it! Needless to say, I fell in love with drum corps very easily and I am planning to audition this fall. Ever since I watched the video clips here on dci.org, I knew there was no question where I wanted to march -- Carolina Crown. This may seem a bit risky, seeing as I've only got two years of experience and Carolina Crown is a top-10 Division I drum and bugle corps ... but I know how hard I'm going to have to work, and I absolutely love a challenge. Back in July when all the drum corps were on tour, I began practicing. So far, the following schedule has been working just fine for me, and I'm becoming better as each week goes by: Monday, 1 p.m. I'm off to fourth period, my favorite class of the day -- band. Quickly, we all change out of our nice school clothes and into our practice clothes. After grabbing our flag bags and water bottles, it's off to the practice field. Our practice field is a large parking lot -- with painted-on yard lines -- at the top of a hill directly in the East Tennessee sun. Basically, it's really hot -- even more so from 1:15 to 3:30 in the afternoon. We spend about the next two hours practicing segments of our marching show, rehearsing in sectionals, marching fundamentals, and just working hard. Then we do run-throughs for 30 minutes or so. When we've finally done our last run-through for the day and we're satisfied with our performance level, we get a little speech from our director. During my first year, I didn't pay much attention to these pep talks, but now I take them to heart and I try to get something meaningful out of each one -- something to keep me going strong. When that's over with, we get back into a marching block and head back to the band room. After putting away our equipment and straightening up the band room and guard room, we are free to leave -- somewhere around 4 p.m. Once I get home, I relax for a little while and then I go into my backyard for a little practice of my own. I try to focus on my strengthening my weaknesses from that day at band rehearsal -- and I practice my tosses and basics. After about half an hour or so, I go back into my air-conditioned house and relax again. I get some water and something to eat, and then it's off to guard sectionals at the practice field. Sectionals last about an hour and then I go home and shower. Tuesday: Pretty much the same as Monday. We don't have sectionals on Tuesdays though, so I get in a little more practice on my own time. Wednesday: Instead of heading off to the practice field at 1 p.m., the guard either goes outside in the parking lot or into the auditorium. We spend the next hour or so working on our dance routines and flag work, and then go home with the "normal people" when school lets out. After I get home and do my homework, I go outside and practice some more on my own. Thursday: Thursdays are a more-intense version of Mondays and Tuesdays because we have a performance on Fridays. We mostly do run-throughs and focus on the weaker portions of our show. Thursday rehearsals tend to last a little longer than Monday or Tuesday, and I typically leave the bandroom at 4:15 p.m. I then relax for a bit and head out for some individual practice. At 7 p.m. we have guard sectionals for an hour at the field, and then I'm done with practice for the day. Friday: The guard works on flagwork and dance in the auditorium or outside in the parking lot. It's a show day for us, so we mainly tend to focus on the weaknesses of the show and then do run-throughs -- sometimes with a tape of the show playing, sometimes it's just up to us to count in our heads. We go home at 2:35 and the rest of the day depends on what kind of show we have that night. Either way, I get in some practice time before getting ready for the game. Saturday: I spend roughly an hour or so outside practicing tosses, basics, show work, dancing, and anything else I need to work on. Also, I think about my individual errors at the performance the night before, and I work on fixing those mistakes. Some Saturdays I spend more time rehearsing than others. Sunday:During the afternoon I will spend half an hour or so practicing some more. That's my basic week of rehearsal, and somewhere in between all that practice I have to do "normal" high school things, such as homework and chores. To some, my weekly routine may seem easy, to others it may seem tough. My fellow guard members, for instance, don't see why I practice so much after band rehearsal is over, they don't understand the hard work marching a drum corps will involve. I just know that it's what I'm going to have to do if I want to reach my goals, and my goal is to make Carolina Crown's color guard. After these intense rehearsals, I can honestly say I'm getting better. By pushing myself a little further each day, I'm improving a lot. When things start getting rough, I think of living my dream and performing with the people I admire. Marching with Crown would be the most incredible experience of my life. I'm not going to settle for anything less than my best. So check back weekly for an update on my journey, thanks for reading and sharing the experience with me.