Peyton Grunzke was the last of her corps to leave the Indiana Wesleyan auditorium. The Bluecoats’ drum major stuck around after the DCI Ccommunity Forum for interviews, watching as most of her fellow members made a mad dash for the food truck, scurrying out of their seats like they just heard the wheezing of a school fire alarm.
Braving a few rain drops, she walked along the sidewalk, calling out to the first face she saw.
“What’s for lunch?” she yelled.
“Ugh,” Grunzke cried out.
The perpetual state of spring training had started to seep into Marion, Indiana.
But while preseason rehearsals can often grow tedious and tiring as days become weeks, corps find ways to break up the repetition. For Grunzke and the Bluecoats, Wednesday nights provide an opportunity to keep things fresh.
“During spring training, every Wednesday night, we get a free block,” she said with a grin.
This year the corps has featured movies or documentaries relating to their 2019 production in the theater. Some members stroll over to the nearby Meijer grocery store and restock for the week. Others stay inside and play games. But if you really want to get a glimpse of the Bluecoats away from their craft, head to Texas Roadhouse in Marion on a Wednesday night.
“When the second block is over, it’s a race to the dorms to get the first shower, get ready in as little time as possible,” baritone player James Evans said. “Texas Roadhouse is the place to be.”
Evans, who’s in his third year with the Bluecoats brass section, has seen first hand how the drum corps activity, like college, can be a place you’ll find your best friends and build incredible relationships.
In the midst of grueling practice schedules, though, that’s not the easiest thing. Free time can often be a commodity.
“You don’t get as much time as you might think to bond with people,” Evans admitted. “Those Wednesday nights really give us a time to make connections and make those life-long friendships that we always talk about.”
Mike Scott agrees. The Bluecoats executive director has watched members stray from their close-knit sections and start interacting with the whole corps.
He also loves the idea of breaking up the monotonous spring training schedule with a free night. The Bluecoats worked with Indiana Wesleyan University, the corps' spring training hosts, to keep the student center open late on Wednesdays, and loaded it with more than 50 board games.
“You can see groups of people that sort of form these cool little cliques that are cross-captions,” Scott said. “That’s always really fun for me to see. That starts to come out the first couple Wednesdays and by the end of the season, you’ve seen all these different iterations of the way they bond. It’s a cool thing.”
This is a good day. 💙— Bluecoats (@Bluecoats) June 5, 2019
08:00am - Up / EAT
09:00am - PT (fieldhouse)
09:30am - Visual / Staging
01:00pm - EAT
02:00pm - Sectionals
06:00pm - Free Block
12:00pm - Lights Out pic.twitter.com/T7pX3o7MsK
Spring training is one giant never-ending routine. Wednesday nights are built into that, a mapped out "fun period" that can be more impactful than the normal quirks of the day, to which the Bluecoats are familiar.
The Canton-based corps somewhat famously rides scooters around the sprawling IWU campus, rolling over a half mile from the field house to the dorms. The Bloo Pit, Bluecoats’ front ensemble percussion section, starts every morning with matches of the populuar schoolyard game four square, using painter’s tape to mark off the boundaries. It’s all about changing things up during the dog days of spring training.
Scott and his management team has tried to help with that.
Earlier in spring training, the Bluecoats’ executive director invited renowned musician Jeff Nelsen — a french horn player for the Canadian Brass and the professor of music at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music — to Marion as a guest lecturer.
He shared his musical experience, arming them with tools to overcome performance anxiety and become comfortable on the stage. He then stayed in with the brass section, sitting in and listening as the corps began its exercises.
“It was really cool to have a completely different perspective,” Evans said. “I’m personally not a music major so the only music instruction I get is from drum corps people. Having that external instruction from someone who is incredible at his art gives a different perspective."
Evans admired the fact that, for the first time in a while, the corps was hearing advice and feedback from an outsider.
Whether it was the fact he was one of the world’s most gifted brass players or that he was just a new face, Nelsen’s voice resonated a bit more with the corps.
The Bluecoats’ members have raved about the freedom and opportunities their corps gives them. Be it adding a professional into rehearsal or allowing a free night once a week, the group believes their spring training procedures will prepare them best for the DCI Tour Premiere presented by DeMoulin Bros. & Co. on June 20 in Detroit.
“It’s incredible. It helps us so much,” Evans said.