Melissa Slade never had to explain to her family what drum corps is. She never had to offer reasoning as to why she should march instead of work a full-time job. She didn't even have to explain the difference between drum corps and marching bands.Melissa Slade grew up in a family where drum corps is a way of life, big time.Tom Slade, the father of the18-year-old member of Carolina Crown and the Crown Winter Guard for the past two seasons, himself marched in Queen City Cadets in 1972 through 1977 and was the director of the Cincinnati Tradition Senior Corps. Sally Slade, a member of Queen City Cadets during that same period, is Melissas mother.But the family connection to drum corps barely ends there. Mary Ann (Slade) Sampson, Melissa's aunt and Tom's sister, marched Pride of Cincinnati in 1982 and 1983. Pat Slade, Melissa's uncle and brother of Tom, marched Crossmen in 1985 and 1986. Mary Lynn, Mary Ann's twin sister, marched Pride of Cincinnati in 1982. Cathy Slade, another sister of Tom and Melissa's aunt, marched Queen City Cadets from 1972 through 1974.And it doesn't end there. Tom's father, grandfather to Melissa, marched with a VFW corps in his youth, with Cincinnati Tradition in 1985 and 1986, and most recently with the Mirage Senior corps in 1995 and 1996. Incredibly, that last year he was 70 years young!For those keeping score, that's an amazing drum corps family tree. And the tree has additional branches in the form of many friends of the family who are themselves involved with the activity.The family has attended a majority of Drum Corps International World Championships, and of course are here in Madison to cheer for Melissa and all the other corps.Mother Sally remembers Queen City Cadets members voting on attending the first Drum Corps International Championship in 1972, a few miles from here in Whitewater, Wisconsin. "It was great. We got to stay with the other corps in the dorms. We were rubbing elbows with corps like the Garfield Cadets."Father Tom has observed the evolution of drum corps since those days, reflecting, "Drum corps is more professional these days. It's a big business now."But back to Melissa: She's the oldest of the new generation of corps members and the first family member of her generation to march. She remembers, "I started going to shows with my family when I was little. I always knew that I was going to march."Perhaps because she grew up around such a strong historical connection, Melissa expresses concern about where drum corps is heading, wanting it to remain different than marching band.Aunt Mary Ann chimes in with the same thought, "There's a distinctive drum corps sound and feel. There's nothing like it." At the same time, she expresses confidence in the one important aspect that will never change, talking with joy about "the friendships formed out of the drum corps experience."Marching with Carolina Crown means more to Melissa than just having fun and performing for the public. It allows her to carry on a proud family tradition, one that spans far beyond the 30 years of great drum corps we celebrate here at the Drum Corps International World Championships.
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