The following is a transcription of a discussion with Blue Devils' percussion caption head and arranger Scott Johnson at the DCI Kalamazoo event on June 30. Earlier in June, Johnson met with 15-year-old Raul Lozada from Fontana in the Los Angeles area. Raul is a high school drummer suffering from an advanced case of kidney disease. According to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, every 41 minutes, the organization grants a wish for a child with a life-threatening medical condition. Make-A-Wish contacted Scott after Raul expressed interest in meeting him as part of his wish-come-true. As told by Scott Johnson: I was in Japan when I received some e-mails from Make-A-Wish. I delete many e-mails without reading them because I get a ton of them. When I got home from Japan, there was a message on my home phone from a gentleman from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, saying he was trying to get hold of me, that he had written me some e-mails and that I hadn't answered him yet. I was somewhat reluctant to call him back because I thought he was soliciting. We often keep thinking that we're doing this small little offset of a 'marching band thing,' but when I went through this experience, it opened my eyes. I did finally call back, and he asked, "Is this Scott Johnson from the Blue Devils?" I was surprised and asked him how he knew I was with the Blue Devils. He continued to tell me there was a freshman high school student who needs a kidney transplant. The Make-A-Wish Foundation chose him as one of their candidates. His wish was to meet me and have a drum lesson. It totally floored me. Raul has never seen a drum corps show, but knew of me through the Internet, via Web sites where I do solo work. His first wish was for his high school drum line to have better equipment so they could become more competitive – the school's drums were a dozen years old. Jim from Make-A-Wish told him, "That's great that you're thinking of other people, but what would be your wish just for you?" His wish for something just for him was to meet me. Of course, I was totally overwhelmed and was speechless. I had no idea. I ended up flying to the LA area on my own. The plan was for the Make-A-Wish people to pick him and his mother up at their house in a limousine while he thought they were only going out to lunch. Instead, they drove him to a Guitar Center music store. Guitar Center supplied the new drums for his school's drum line, and they also gave Raul a drum set. The limo let him out and Raul walked into the music store. I sat in my car watching so I knew what he looked like. He was sitting behind a drum set and I waited about 10 minutes before walking in. I looked at Jim, silently asking if I should come in and he nodded "yes." I went in, Jim went over to Raul and said, "We've got another surprise for you." Raul looked up and he looked at me and his mouth dropped. He said, "Oh, my God, it's Scott Johnson." They were taping the whole thing. His mom, aunt and uncle were all there. His mom said, "Oh, my God, you live on our computer!" I was thinking and laughing, "I don't know if that's good or bad!" I hung out with Raul all day long. I sat down with him and said, "Come on, let's play something on the drum set." He said, "I'm not really a drum set player," and I said, "Yeah, me neither." So I pulled out a drum pad, set it up, gave him some sticks and we continued to drum for a good half hour.
Editorial assistance by Michael Boo. Fanfare archives
And, of course, the Blue Devils hooked him up big time as well. We gave him at least 10 pairs of different drum sticks that I've helped to create. We gave him my drum pad and Blue Devils' drum line shirts. The Blue Devils' director Dave Gibbs was gracious enough to give him three tickets to the DCI World Championship Finals in Pasadena to sit with the Blue Devils block of fans. This experience happened about two weeks before the Riverside, Calif. show on June 22. I invited Raul to come and be a staff member with the Blue Devils for the day. He came to the Riverside show, I gave him a staff pass, and he stayed right next to me and warmed-up the drum line before the show. He walked into the stadium with me, hung out on the track and watched the show. Halfway through the show he said, "This is awesome." I asked, "What was the last show you were at?" "This is the first show I've ever been to." I had no idea. I assumed he had been to drum corps shows before. This has been an unbelievable experience, having someone like Raul wish to meet me. The first thing I did when I flew back home to Concord was to talk to the Blue Devils' drum line.
I told them, "Okay, guys. Check it out. You are role models. There are little kids out there, and there are big kids out there, and they idolize you. They worship you. We have to respect that and we have to live up to those expectations." It's been a phenomenal experience and it won't be over until after the World Championship Finals, when Raul gets to see Championship Finals down in Pasadena. This whole experience has really helped to put into perspective where the drum corps activity is. We often keep thinking that we're doing this small little offset of a "marching band thing," but when I went through this experience, it opened my eyes. I've done a lot of clinics around the world. I've talked with a lot of kids around the world. I've drummed with a lot of kids. To give a child who is basically fighting for his life one wish and for him to wish to meet me is pretty overwhelming. Actually, it's very overwhelming. It's pretty amazing. It's still amazing. It still blows me away.
Editorial assistance by Michael Boo. Fanfare archives