Drum Corps International
Boo looks forward to another 50 years

Boo looks forward to another 50 years

by Drum Corps International

"Mike?" "Yes, Lord?" "It's time." "Time?" "Yes, it's time to go out into the world." "I'm afraid." "Don't be. I'll be with you the entire time." "Even 50 years from now?" "Especially 50 years from now. Now go. I've arranged you to have the most wonderful parents. They're expecting you. I don't want to keep them waiting." "Will I still have them 50 years from now?" "Yes, miraculously so. And you'll still have your brother, who is already there. He was born three months premature and he's deaf and blind, but you will find your own form of communication with him and you won't be able to imagine your life without him. He needs someone like you." "Sounds like a tall responsibility." "Don't worry, you're up to it." "What can I look forward to?" "Well, you can look forward to hearing from your teachers that you should never finish a sentence with a preposition." "Huh?" "Never mind -- just a little grammatical humor. You'll hear a lot of that as you're going to become a writer." "Cool. What else will I be?" "Well, what else do you want to be?" "My needs are few. I don't need to be rich." "That's good, because you won't be." "I don't need to be famous." "Ditto." "I would like to be creative so I can express myself in ways that glorify you." "Don't worry about that. You'll always strive for creativity and you'll live for it as well." "Will I be a chick magnet?" "Umphhh." "Huh?" "Sorry. I had to stifle a laugh. No, alas, that doesn't look like it's in your cards." "Well, I will get married and have kids like most people, won't I?" "Uh, not before you're 50, but you'll always see yourself as having potential and being a late bloomer. Don't worry, you'll get used to it and amazing things happen to my children even after they're 50." "Well, I guess that gives me some hope." "You want to rethink that thing about not being rich or famous?" "No. I'll live with that." "I'll tell you what. Because you are willing to sacrifice fame and fortune so willingly, and because I don't think you're going to be all that hot in the romance department, I'm going to make it up to
you. I'm going to give you lots and lots of friends." "Neat." "And you know what? These aren't going to be just any friends. These friends are going to be the best I can come up with. These are going to be drum corps friends." "What is drum corps?" "Well, it's sort of extreme marching band. Whoa! Did I say that?" "I guess that will make sense to me in 50 years." "You'll get to be friends with some really great people -- people like Steve Vickers, Bill Cook, Dennis DeLucia ..." "I'm going to be friends with Dennis DeLucia?" "Yes. Can you believe it?" "He'll still be alive then?" "Hey, he's not as old as people think he is." "That black hair probably fools a lot of people." "Well, it doesn't fool me." "So, these drum corps people are really great folk?" "Like I said, they're the best." "What will I do to meet them all?" "Like I said earlier, I'm making you into a writer." "And I'm going to write about drum corps? How can I spend my life doing that?" "You'll be amazed." "Hey, what's happening?" "It's time, Michael. It's time." "I'm not ready to go." "You've got to go. Besides, Dennis DeLucia isn't going to be young forever." I'm not sure how this happened. I mean, I know that one doesn't turn 50 without being around for 50 years. I'm just still kind of amazed that I can say that on October 5, I cross that imaginary barrier myself. And yet I don't see it as a barrier but an opportunity, an opportunity to continue to love doing the things I love and being around people I've come to love as my own family. I am talking, of course, about my family of drum corps marchers, instructors, designers and arrangers, managers and fans. Since my first article for DCI Contest Guild (now DCI Today) in 1984, I have been blessed to meet so many of you and to be allowed to bring so many of you into my own life. There's no question how it all started, this long love affair I've had with drum corps. In the fall of 1974, I was new to VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, an institution I transferred to in order to become a band director. I became a friend of a trumpet player named David Allie, who was marching with the Cavaliers in 1975. One night, he essentially kidnapped me from a practice room and said I was going to go with him to Cavaliers rehearsal. The corps was still somewhat local and used to rehearse on Wednesday nights. I protested, he insisted, and he won only because I had already done my homework. I had seen Cavaliers in a parade and one drum corps show back in 1972, but I had no desire to spend an evening at a rehearsal. Dave led me into a cramped rehearsal space in the basement of an office building in Park Ridge and then into an office where he introduced me to a man who had an unlit cigar in his mouth. I learned his name was Don Warren. Don welcomed me to rehearsal, I told him I was there just to watch, and then I went into the room to listen to the horn line and also the adjacent room to take a peek at the drum line. The members of the corps knew Don as "the old man," and to be honest, he looked old. Funny this is, he seems to have not aged a bit since I aged out in 1977. This past summer, I asked him how old he was when I was in the corps. To my surprise, I am now older than he was back then. Ding, ding -- reality check. At the end of the evening, much to my surprise, (but it just seemed so right at the time), I had asked for a membership application and I was fitted for a uniform. Yes, it really happened that way. And I was given a xylophone part for the corps' opener, "Russian Christmas Music," which I learned back at VanderCook. That very Saturday, I was back in Park Ridge to march the Park Ridge Christmas parade on a day that was sleeting and icy cold. My hands froze up and drum major Doug Gengler placed my hands inside his and blew hot air on them so I could feel my fingers again. I can't tell you how touched I was by that act of brotherhood towards someone who didn't know a thing about what was going on. Oh, the parade was miserable. It was frigid. It was a horrible time. And the following Wednesday, I was back at rehearsal. I ended up moving to the horn line the first year because the previous xylophone player came back and there were only two mallets players allowed back then, but I played the xylophone parts for two post-DCI World Championship tour shows that year and then the next two years until I aged out. By the way, we wore the instruments around our necks because there was no pit. If you're new to the activity, please know that I am NOT kidding you. I felt defined by my experience with the Cavaliers. I could write several books about my memories of my time with the corps. There were so many people who were shaping my life, but none more so than Doug Gengler's mom, who we all knew simply as "Ma." She was the corps nurse, confidant and chief butt-kicker when you needed motivation -- and I loved her for it. I stayed in touch with her and when I found out she was gravely ill, I took my marimba and vibes up to her house and serenaded her with corps songs. Back then, corps played a lot of popular songs and it was easy to put together a repertoire of corps songs for such an informal recital. When she died, I was asked to be one of her pallbearers. One thing jumped out at me while I was helping to carry her. I remembered a bad time I was having that she helped me get through. In a sense she helped carry me through my troubles. And now I was carrying her. Life really is a circle. I graduated from college before aging out. It was beyond a challenge to march my last season in 1977 and still take some job interviews, but I was darned if I was going to get that far and not age out properly. The day I got home from tour, I received two job offers. Teaching wasn't everything I had hoped for and I decided to go for my masters, but this time, in music composition. And I've been very happy ever since. After I aged out, I started having drum corps dreams at night, weird things about still marching, and I would wake up at night in a cold sweat, my heart racing, feeling the loss that an important part of my life was over and I would never again find such meaning and purpose in my calling. In one dream, the corps stopped their buses at my house and used my bedroom to change into their uniforms for a parade. In another dream, the DCI World Championship finals were being held in my basement. It wasn't the weirdness of these dreams that made me break into a cold sweat, it was the knowledge that I would never again wear a Cavaliers uniform. In 1978, less than a couple weeks before the DCI World Championships in Denver, one of these dreams inspired me to call someone from the corps and ask if the corps still had any tickets for DCI World Championships. Until then, I was not planning on going. And then, suddenly and impetuously, I decided I HAD to go. Note to all current marchers reading this: No matter whether you think you can afford it or not, after you age out, be absolutely certain that you attend the following DCI World Championships. You will, as I did, find that there is much joy in being a spectator. Attending the World Championships will put this all in perspective. You'll realize you can still have fun, and that aging out isn't as much having one door slam in your face as it is having another door open wide for you to walk through. I owe so much to long-time DCI executive director Don Pesceone for "discovering" me and throwing projects my way -- writing for Contest Guild and DCI Today, writing about the corps programs for the DCI program book for every year but one since 1989 and writing the LP (now CD and DVD) liner notes for more years than I can remember. Don believed in me, and some day, I'll have to ask him why. I remember going up to the DCI office with my marimba and playing "Danny Boy" for his last day on the job. I've only done that for one other person, my dear, dear friend Peggy Kosin -- she retired from the DCI office after a couple dozen years in order to spend more time with her grandchildren. I actually wept when Peggy left, such was the love I have for her and the loss I felt. But she's still volunteering, along with her husband, Tom (who inputs the recaps at the big shows), and so in a way, she remains eternal. I remember this intriguing man by the name of Sam Mitchell. He didn't last long in the position of executive director. He tried hard but never did quite fit in, and so he left to pursue other ventures and left the earth a couple years ago. I enjoyed getting together with him and having him ask me my take on certain elements of the activity. I think Sam tried, but it just wasn't to be. Our loss of Sam, though, allowed us to pick up Dan Acheson. I had known Dan through his being director of Glassmen for ten years. Did you know that every year he was director, the corps placed higher at DCI World Championships than it did the year before? I enjoyed talking with Dan at shows and remember one show where I spent the evening off field talking with him about the state of the activity rather than watching the corps. Dan came in at a precarious time for DCI. Finances were not good and it appeared we might not make it as an organization. Dan tightened belts all around and pulled us all together. And now we're looking at the future with a sense of wonder for what we can do, rather than looking at the future with a sense of dread for what we might not be able to do. Dan realized the power of the Internet and has helped nurture the growth of DCI.org through his leadership. I consider myself fortunate to ultimately be working under Dan's direction. Years before I wrote for DCI, I ran into Steve Vickers and Drum Corps World. At the time, I was writing for the soon-to-disappear Drum Corps News and needed a new home. Steve encouraged me to take on some running projects; "A Bit of Boo," a humor column that got me in trouble more than once, and "Quarterfinals: As it Happens," a project I did for several years and was allowed to do again this year. I kind of teethed myself on my DCW projects and I'll always remember Steve giving me the chance to develop as a writer. Through Steve, I met my friend David Scott, who a few years ago did the single nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. I had lamented one year that I had no photos of myself when I marched, save for that one-inch tall photo in the 1976 DCI program book when I was selected to represent the Cavaliers in a year where they decided to feature one person from each corps. Unknown to me, Dave contacted Moe Knox, a well-known drum corps photographer from the east, and Dave bought from Moe a number of photographs of me in uniform from 1976 and 1977. He set them in a frame and presented the montage to me during dinner with Steve Vickers and others before an indoor drum corps concert hall event in Rockford. I was, for one of the few times in my life, speechless. I added my corps patches and those for being a DCI World finalist for three years and the montage is now proudly displayed in my home office for all to see (see photo below).

Mike's framed photos (top) and the man himself at the Ocean State Classic this past August.
A few years ago, George Dixon created this strange new entity called Drum Corps Planet. While I don't write for the Web site, I live for what it offers every day in that it gives the fans a chance to express themselves about the activity and also about things that have nothing to do with drum corps. DCP is the coffee I never learned to drink in the morning and the sedatives I never had to take before retiring in the evening. And I am especially grateful for Dave Wilson and Ricky Fritzsching of DCI.org. As web content manager, it's Dave's responsibility to fill the Web site with, well, content. Ricky programs the site to make the content work. Sometimes, while I'm sitting on my butt watching drum corps so I can write about the shows for liner notes or DCI.org, Dave and Ricky are running up and down the stands trying to get the site to function live at shows, often under entirely inhospitable conditions. It was Dave's idea back in 2002 that I do a weekly column for this Internet entity I didn't fully comprehend. I told him he was crazy. A WEEKLY column? Where would the material come from? Are there THAT many stories out there? Three years later, I can't imagine my life without "Fanfare." And yes, there ARE that many stories out there, and more. And there are lots of great people who have no trouble expressing themselves to tell these stories. By the way, there are lots of people with DCI who you never hear much about. They labor in the office and when the corps hit the field, they're usually off somewhere else making sure things are running smoothly. There are so many to mention whom I've been friends with for many, many years. Ed Dempsey immediately pops to mind, and there are many I'm just beginning to get to know and love. I cherish them all because what they do allows me to do what I do. Along the way, I've met and somehow become friends with some of the most amazing people who have touched this activity. I'll never forget Gail Royer giving me a personal tour of Miss Amana, the Santa Clara Vanguard food truck. I remember George Zingali explaining how he developed his personal style of drill writing. I stayed overnight once at Steve Brubaker's house and spent several minutes staring at the magnetic board he used to develop some of his geometric drill evolutions. I remember sitting next to Pepe Notaro at a show as he explained why the small corps must be saved for the health of the entire activity. I miss all those people, but I know they still live with us through the work they did, work that helped shape the activity for the better. And there were people well behind the spotlight I miss as well. Just after Foxboro, we lost Gene Herring, a beautiful soul who was one of the quietest people I'd ever met. Gene worked on the contest crew, well in the background, as my friend Bob Wiles did until his untimely passing a few years back. These are jobs that must be done, but seldom do these people receive any kind of accolades for doing a job that is entirely unseen. The reason you don't know that people like this are doing their jobs is because they're doing the jobs so well, things just keep running like clockwork. A couple years ago, Gene invited me to stay over after the DCI winter seminar in Denver and join him and his wife at their condo in Breckinridge, a Colorado ski resort. I'm not a winter person, but I'll never forget the activities he arranged for me -- a snowmobile class on top of a mountain among them -- and I'm so sorry I won't see him again. There are so many who work behind the scenes, such as Joe Courtney in shipping and also the contest crew, and Harvey Wingo on contest crew. They remind me that it's the things being done behind the scenes that allow the things with visibility to function. Somehow I got to be friends with Star of Indiana founder Bill Cook. I love the crazy dude and chance encounters with him continue to bless my life, such as looking at my cell phone after the last corps was on the field in Foxboro and seeing he had called -- as it turned out -- for scores. And through him I've met so many others who are special to the activity and/or my life. I remember putting together Cavalier yearbooks in the basement of fellow marcher Jeff Fiedler in the mid-1970s. To tell the truth, those projects were the start of my life of writing about drum corps. I remember a few years later going to Burger King with a guy marching in the Cavaliers' drum line and prodding him with questions about stereo speakers, as he was working in a store that sold such equipment. His name? Tom Blair. The procession of people in my drum corps memory go on and on. In 1979, I ended up going to breakfast with Dennis DeLucia, then a drum instructor with Bridgemen. Out of nowhere, I stated, "Bridgemen are a state of mind." He responded, "That is so true." Somehow, we've been friends since and I aim right for him when I see him at shows. I feel the same about people such as J.W. Koester, and I know there have to be others I'm forgetting at the moment. I trust they'll forgive me my "senior moment." Once in awhile I'll get a call from someone I don't expect. Earlier this year, the Cadets' Marc Sylvester called me and asked if I had some time to chat about surrealism. "Yeah, sure, why?" "Well, I've got these ideas for our show this year and I want to bounce them past someone who isn't with the corps." And so I ended up hearing this idea for placing this door on the 50-yard line and having schoolgirls pop out of it throughout the show. I was invited into the thought process of a genius. My God, I live for those special, unexpected moments. If you asked me what was my most memorable writing experience for DCI, the answer would be quick and simple. During the DCI World Championships in Orlando in 2003, DCI web content manager Dave Wilson instructed me to go to the Individual and Ensemble contest spread out across Orlando's Church Street entertainment district and find some stories for DCI.org. I decided to go for broke and walk up to groups and individuals and ask, "Does anyone have an interesting story?" And indeed, a number of people answered in the affirmative. One was Raymond Okuda, a member of Phoenix's guard. He was marching with two foot-long steel rods attached to his spine with hooks and wires due to suffering from a severe case of scoliosis, curvature of the spine. Did I mention he was a member of the guard? He told me, "You can't help the cards you're dealt and you've just got to work with them." He also said, "If you want to do it bad enough, there's a way to do it." Amazing. Just amazing. And yet, that isn't my most memorable DCI writing experience. The same morning, I walked up to a group of Blue Stars members and asked them my standard "opening line." And one girl, Shaylee Young, spoke up and told me in a matter-of-fact style that she had cancer. Here, in its entirety, is the interview from that encounter. You'll notice the similarity in titles between the interview and today's entire column. That's how much I felt changed after talking with Shaylee. Looking forward to another year Shaylee Young is a 15-year-old from Winterset, Iowa, who has overcome tremendous odds to fulfill her dream of marching in a corps. The Blue Stars rookie baritone is a cancer survivor. Hers is a story of incredible determination and will. "I had stomach pains since December. The doctors had no clue as to what it was. Through ultrasound tests, it was discovered that I had a nine-centimeter ovarian cyst, about the size of a small orange. Cancer runs in my family. I've lost at least five family members on both sides. "I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 10 and was told I wouldn't live to be 15. Besides that, I wasn't told much. My health had been going down, so I figured I would do stuff while I could. That's why I'm marching this summer. It's the summer after I turned 15. I figured 'whatever happens, happens,' so I wouldn't let it get me down. "The cyst was removed on March 4 and a biopsy was taken. Fortunately, that one was benign. I have ovarian cyst disease, so there are others that might have to be dealt with. One ruptured and took me out of the corps' home show in LaCrosse because my side hurt so bad. The doctors said I had fluid in my body that would have to be reabsorbed, and until it was reabsorbed, it would be painful. But I was back practicing the next day. "The tour has been interesting. When I had my surgery, I were told I couldn't pick up anything over ten pounds for six weeks. The Blue Stars camp was seven weeks after my surgery. My horn weighs eight pounds, and it gets heavy when you have to hold it up and out for so long. "I'll sit out for awhile when my stomach hurts, and when I run back in to the rehearsal, the corps members encourage me to keep going. "The doctors will see what my health is like when I go home, and then I might be starting chemotherapy. "I'm looking forward to having another year where I can accomplish anything and overcome any obstacle. To others with challenges, I encourage you to not let things get you down. No matter what, you can overcome it." "OK, I'm back now. That's why I'm marching this summer. It's the summer after I turned 15." Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Thank you, Shaylee, for reminding me why I do this. Thank you to all the readers of the program books, CD and DVD liner notes, various DCI.org projects and my baby, the Fanfare column -- thanks for your support, encouragement and for your willingness to read what comes as a result of my fingers touching a computer keyboard. And especially, thank you for loving drum corps so much, for giving of yourselves, for attending shows and supporting the kids on the field, for buying corps booster items, for helping out any way you can. Without you, there is no me. I am so deeply, deeply grateful to all of you. You give me purpose, you give me a reason to try to offer part of myself in everything I write. You are all my heroes. God bless you, and I really do look forward to being around for another 50 years, provided I can still be allowed to contribute to drum corps the only way I truly know how. You bless me with your existence, your love of drum corps, and with your friendship. Peace. 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.

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