Drum Corps International
Angels watching over us

Angels watching over us

by Michael Boo

John Homer Miller once stated, "Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life." Miranda Soucie sent in the above quote. We'll hear from her after we hear from Rob Dunnington, another Canadian who experienced a profound loss in his life.

Miranda Soucie with friend Rodney Thompson of the Madison Scouts.
Many of us have experienced such tragedy in this activity, and the passing of years hardly makes it easier to deal with the "why?" of such happenings. However, to remember those who were lost before their time means in some small way that they will always be alive in our hearts.
Rob's story: This was the end of a very frustrated year for the Dutch Boy Cadets, for Kitchener, Ontario. We had just moved up a class in 1973 and we paid our dues by doing so. We didn't win any shows, the drill was more difficult and we had some problems with the music ... all the things that you have to go through to move up in the drum corps world. Our horn instructor, Mike Schuster, was always a guiding light in these frustrating times, trying to keep our spirits up. In 1972, when Mike first came to our corps, we didn't know how much he knew about the corps or even drum corps in general. Mike was 33 and had a great business going and was successful with the German polka band he played in every Oktoberfest. When we had section practices and it was hot, he almost always let us practice in the shade for at least three hours -- which three hours depended on how practice was going. One minute he'd be yelling at us to get this one part of the song right and the next he'd be telling us jokes. During winter all day rehearsals, he would order 16 pizzas for us and pay for it himself. One day in late May, four of us and Mike were sitting around the practice hall talking about drum corps and he said, "What's this show coming up in a few weeks, the Shriners International? Do you think there will be any good corps there?" We all looked at each other and sat there. We all wondered, "Is he serious?" I spoke up and said, "There might be one or two there." He looked at all of us and said, "You guys know damn well this is the best show of the year. Do you wanna go?" Well, you don t have to ask us twice. 'Sure!,' we all said at once. We went to the show and on the way home Mike stopped at a pizza joint that we went to a lot and bought us a late-night snack. We were looking for some money to pay our own portion and Mike said, "Hey guys, it's on me." This is the kind of thing Mike would do. Some of the older guys would get away with playing practical jokes on him. We got into St. Clair Shores, Mich., a day early for a show and Mike was going to meet us the next day. We had practiced that day and things were going well. Before we went to sleep that night, we were told that Mike would be possibly arriving that night. So we had his sleeping bag laid out and wanted to make sure things were just right. We were outside talking when one of the guys came up with a 2 ½-foot dead fish from the lake and put it in Mike's sleeping bag and thought nothing more of it, until the next morning. The air conditioning had broken down around three in the morning and the smell in the building was absolutely gross. Our corps director told us that Mike had spent the night at a local motel. Needless to say, we all pitched in and bought Mike a new sleeping bag. Mike was a great influence on a great number of us. At one practice he said, "I wish I was your age again so I could march in this drum corps. The crowd loves you guys and that's what this is all about -- being a crowd pleaser. I don't care what the judges tell me. All you should worry about is that the people that pay to see you like you." Everyone who knew Mike liked Mike. He always let you know where you stood with him and he was a lot of fun to be around. To all of the horn line, he was like an older brother that you could always count on. In September of 1973, we were told that we were going to Munich, Germany, the next year for Oktoberfest. There were a few guys that were going to quit until they heard that and everyone was excited, especially Mike. That October, we had our Oktoberfest in Kitchener as usual. There was the parade that goes from one end of Waterloo to the other end of Kitchener, and numerous concerts in a variety of halls around town. The last night of Oktoberfest we were all dancing to Mike's band at one of the halls and we all had a great time. At the end of the night, we all shook hands with Mike and said our good-byes. Little did any of us realize how much meaning that would have for us the next morning. I had just gotten home from church when the phone rang. It was my section leader and he told me I had better sit down because he had some bad news. He took a few minutes to compose himself and finally told me that Mike was in a car accident heading home from the hall. I was, to say the least, stunned. I asked how bad Mike was hurt. Again, there was an even longer silence. He then told me that Mike was dead. He said our corps director had just called him and told him what happened and asked him to call his section. When I hung up the phone I went into a rage like I had never done before. I cried for three hours before my parents could talk to me and ask me why I was so upset. It was the first time that I had to deal with death and I flew off the handle. The police said that he fell asleep at the wheel and there was no alcohol in his system. We had an honor guard at Mike's funeral. Since our rehearsal hall was two blocks from the church, we all met there and marched down to the ceremony. Needless to say, there wasn't a dry eye in the church. Thirty-one years later I still think about him frequently. His shouting, his laughing and even his face are still as vivid now as they were then. The feelings that I have now recounting the short time Mike was with us still brings tears to my eyes, as it always will. They are tears of sadness for someone who left before he should have. They say these things happen for a reason, but I'll be damned to figure this one out. Although people die every day in this world, as long as they are thought of, no one ever truly dies, do they? Miranda's story: I hail from the Great White North -- Sault Saint Marie, Ontario, Canada, home of the Bandettes. February 1996 was a life-changing month for me. My parents left my brother and I to get ready for school while they drove to work. That same morning my principal took my brother and I into his office where a police officer was waiting for us. Road conditions, mainly black ice, caused my parents' car to slide into oncoming traffic. That was the day I acquired four angels. Two of those angels are my parents, who I strongly believe are watching over me right now; and the other two are my grandparents, who took my brother and I in. I was 11 at the time and my grandparents gave up retirement to raise my younger brother and I. Being so young, you can imagine what a handful we were. Needless to say, we had a very trying year. My self-confidence was shot. I had to move to a new town, a new school, essentially a new family. Everything was different. I had so much trouble making friends, and I had a hard time accepting what had happened. The next year I met a girl named Ashley. She was a first year member in the Bandettes, the only all-female corps still active in North America. Ashley took me to a corps rehearsal. I'm a pretty small girl, and at 12 they thought I would be perfect for the color guard. I showed up to one of their weekly rehearsals and I hit myself in the head with a flag. I subsequently walked down the hall and joined the drum line. This was the beginning of what I know will be a lifelong love affair. I spent two years playing bass drum and one year in the front ensemble before taking a leave of absence to work for two summers. Last summer I rejoined and played lead soprano. The Bandettes changed my life completely. They gave me music, they gave me confidence and they gave me courage. I turned from a frightened young girl; one who was so afraid of losing everything she had all over again, to the EXTREMELY outgoing young woman I am now. For four years, they gave me a reason to stay strong, and to reach for my dreams. They became my surrogate family, as well as so many other friends I have met in DCI over the years. Due to a change in schooling, I began looking into moving to a different corps. I walked into the Blue Stars camp and banquet this past November and was awestruck. If you know me you'll understand that it takes a lot to get me to shut up! I didn't speak much Friday or Saturday morning. But when the rookie meeting began I was going a mile a minute again. I made the mellophone line and I already know I have a new home. It's amazing how it feels like family everywhere you go in drum corps. I know that my grandparents and my brother became my new family in 1996. However, I also feel that if it weren't for DCI, I wouldn't be who I am today, I would still be that little scared girl. Every time I step onto the field, I have my parents with me and I know that they would be proud. 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.

Related News

View all news