Austin Moldenhauer had his own visions for Boise Gems’ first season of SoundSport performances.
Moldenhauer, the Gems’ director, had been reasonable. He and his corps expected a small member turnout, and ended up with 60 engaged students. He was prepared for several bumps, and didn’t end up with none, but ended up with what he described as a “very smooth” summer.
Ultimately, by many measures both tangible and intangible, year one was a fantastic start for the Idaho-based ensemble.
“I would say the season went really well; it was definitely much better than you would have expected,” Moldenhauer said. “All the members rose to the challenge. And we really, really would not be here if it wasn't for the members, so we're very grateful to them and their commitment to the Gems.”
Boise Gems’ first season included an array of performance opportunities and exposed members and the organization as a whole to much of what a summer of marching music has to offer.
The ensemble made its inaugural appearance at a pair of exhibition events held in Kennewick, Washington and Boise, Idaho, before taking its first steps onto the DCI Summer Tour at a marquee July 12 event in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“It makes me a little emotional thinking about the whole thing,” Moldenhauer said. “All these kids just bought into something that wasn't even there. And because of them, there's definitely going to be a future."
Gems’ Utah performance was every bit of a first taste of the DCI Tour; the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium provided a sizable, energetic crowd, and an array of noteworthy drum corps alongside which to perform.
“It was really cool,” Moldenhauer said of Gems’ Salt Lake City performance. “It was just like this weird feeling of, ‘Oh, we're out there now. People know who we are now.’ The crowd was going crazy for them which was awesome, and it was very full when we performed.”
“In the warmup lots, we had people come and watch us, which was really cool,” he added. “The kids definitely fed off of that, people being there to watch them specifically.”
Gems’ first events allowed for the opportunity to share a stage with Seattle Cascades and Columbians, a pair of 2023 DCI World Championship Semifinalists who share a unique bond representing the Pacific Northwest.
“We have definitely benefited from having a relationship with the Cascades and a relationship with the Columbians,” Moldenhuaer said. “All of us are in sync a little bit as far as knowing each other and supporting each other as best we can.”
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In the eyes of Moldenhauer and the team at Boise Gems, 2023 was just the beginning. Gems’ leadership is already getting started on plans for the 2024 season, which it hopes will build upon the success of this past summer.
Through consistent appearances at nearby marching band events, involved recruiting campaigns and an earlier start on auditions, Gems’ hope is to build a larger ensemble for 2024. Moldenhauer added that a strong contingent of returning members may help that cause mightily.
“It's looking like right now we're going to have about a two-thirds retention rate of veteran performers, which is really cool,” he said. “To see that our group will actually have veteran members and that sort of thing going forward, it's just really exciting. And I hope more people are able to participate this year, who were maybe on the fence about it last year.”
“We're hoping to field 100, 110 next year,” he said. “So we're slowly, incrementally growing. It’s our goal to check off those boxes.”
And ultimately, Moldenhauer’s message to those performers wondering why they should take the leap and be a part of the next steps of Gems’ growth is simple: be a part of something special.
“You'd be a part of history,” he said. “We’re going to keep this ball rolling. And they're going to be who helps us do that.”