Mike Benz will be the in-line drum major for the 2003 Boston Crusaders. He is 18 years old, and is currently a senior at Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro, Mass. Next year he will be attending Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester Mass., as a chemical engineering major. This week he sat down to answer some questions.
DCI.org: How does it feel to be a drum major for the Boston Crusaders? Benz: Being a drum major for the Boston Crusaders is not only a great honor, but an unreal experience. At first, I could hardly believe that this was happening to me. Now that it has had time to sink in, I feel honored and privileged to hold this position. Since it is such a unique and important position, my goal is to make the most of it. I feel that I can really make a difference in how our summer goes, on and off the field. I hope to do my part to make it an all-around positive experience for everyone. DCI.org: Did you always strive to become a drum major? If not, when did you decide to become one, and why? Benz: The thought of becoming a drum major had crossed my mind from time to time, but I had not put serious consideration into it until this past season. During my time in high school, I was never a drum major. Due to the size of my school's marching band, my abilities were needed as a soloist on the field. In the drum corps world, I started marching soprano for Boston in 2000 when I was only 15 years old. For the first two years, I thought, "I'm young to be a drum major, I'd rather spend a few more years on the field first." During this time, my leadership skills greatly improved to the point where I decided now was the time to audition.
DCI.org: In the winter, how do you prepare for the summer's drum major responsibilities? Benz: Right after finals, preparation begins for the next season. As a drum major, my first responsibility was to answer potential members' questions, mostly by e-mail. About a month or so later, the other drum majors, our corps director, Howard Weinstein, and I meet by conference call to discuss off-season logistics such as camps, staff changes, and contacting veteran members. In November, I had the opportunity to fly out to Indianapolis for BOA Grand Nationals to work the booth that the Crusaders had set up. Here, I answered the questions of people who expressed an interest. Once winter camps started up, my role became multifaceted. This year, I am the in-line drum major, meaning I carry all the responsibilities of being a conducting drum major, while still performing as a member of the horn line. My responsibilities during the off-season not only have changed, but they have increased greatly. DCI.org: How would you describe the drum major audition process? Benz: First off, any current member of the Boston Crusaders can audition for the role of drum major. If you are interested, you first have to submit an essay about being a drum major: Your strengths, weaknesses, beliefs on what qualities a drum major should be, etc. From here, each potential member must speak in front of the entire drum corps, giving a motivational speech, announcing the schedule, or discussing a particular issue. Also, there is a meeting with the administrative staff so that they can get a better feel for each candidate. Finally, a potential drum major is asked to conduct a segment of the show during full ensemble rehearsal. The position is announced after finals retreat. DCI.org: Besides the Boston Crusaders, what are some of your other interests? Benz: I'm pretty much your typical kid. In my spare time, I like to play golf, hang out with my friends, and I love to ski. Also, I work a part-time job to help pay for the summer and for school. Keeping myself busy usually isn't a problem! DCI.org: How would you describe the leadership and management of the Boston Crusaders? Benz: I truly believe that the Boston Cruasaders are one of the best-run organizations out there. The amount of time and dedication that our management and staff members put into the corps is unbelievable. While on the road, things don't always go the way they are supposed to, no matter what organization you are with. What impresses me is how our management and leaders handle these "bumps." I believe this has contributed greatly to our success in the past. DCI.org: How would you describe the Boston Crusaders members?
Benz: The Boston Crusaders are one big family. When I first joined the corps in 2000, I wasn't expecting people to be very open, and for the atmosphere to be very competitive. Instead, I was greeted with open arms into the organization. The friendships I have made, and the chemistry that connects us all is the reason why I keep coming back to Boston. DCI.org: How would you describe your own leadership style?
Benz: Especially since I am still a performing member in the drum corps, leadership by example is an important asset. People look to those in positions of leadership to set the standards. In my position, I feel that I can use this ability to take the corps to a higher level. DCI.org: During the winter, do you guys keep in close contact with each other? Benz: Starting right after finals, we stay in close contact, usually through e-mail. Usually, they will be about a particular issue related to the drum corps, but we'll also just drop a line to say hi. Also, we all meet about once a month via conference call to discuss upcoming camps and other issues of importance. It also helps the communication process that the drum majors are really good friends. We feel very comfortable being totally honest with each other, and I think that is a very valuable advantage. DCI.org: What during the summer are you looking forward to the most? Benz: At this point, I'm just looking forward to getting out on the road. Drum corps is great because when you are there, it is the only thing that you have to worry about. I'm trying to balance a great many things out during the off-season. It will be great to be able to focus on just one thing.