Drum Corps International
Contributing in a meaningful way

Contributing in a meaningful way

by Michael Boo

Tom Montgomery is the type of corps fan that blesses our activity with so much goodwill and still tries to do more. He provided the following story. I never marched with a drum corps. Truth be told, even though I held my own in the bass line of a large competitive high school marching band many years ago, I don't think I ever had the chops to do what these kids do today. And yet, I've fallen in love with this activity, not only as a fan, but also as a financial sponsor of some young people whom I'd never met before. Most live halfway across the country from Cass City, the small town in Michigan I've called home for the past 19 years. But these young adults -- most of them members of the Cavaliers -- are now like "adopted" sons to me and my family. Strike up a conversation with me, or visit my home and take a look at all of the framed pictures on my living room wall, and you're certain to hear all about my guys, what they play(ed), where they live and go to school, their families, etc. How did this all happen? It's difficult to explain to most folks why I do this. The look I see in their eyes when they ask that question reminds me of a feature story interview I did a few a years ago (I'm a weekly newspaper editor when I'm not planning trips to see the Green Machine and my adopted sons). I was interviewing a pair of brothers not too far from my home who were preparing to march together with the Madison Scouts. The eldest brother was a soprano vet, and being the drum corps fan I am, living in an area where the activity is virtually unknown, the first question I asked was how he describes the activity to the uninitiated. He rolled his eyes and said, "Well, after being asked countless times if it's 'drum and fife corps,' 'marching band,' etc., I simply tell them to go to a show to see what it's all about." It was the perfect response. But I tend to go a bit further when offering advice to those who seem even remotely interested in drum corps, but really have no idea what it is or how dedicated, disciplined, respectful and hard working these young musical athletes are, regardless of the uniform they wear. "Yes, go to a show, let me buy you a ticket, let's drive down together," I'll suggest. "But, let's also take a few minutes to stop at the Cavaliers food truck after the show to visit with the guys, the staff, the volunteers, the parents and the fans. You'll find more friendly (although weary) smiles, handshakes and great conversation than you can fit into a quick hour or two." I began this journey in 2001 after my wife, Deb, encouraged me to do what I had wanted to do for years -- attend a live drum corps show just a few hours from our home. That led to a trip to Buffalo, N.Y., where we enjoyed a family vacation. That's where my daughter Christie, then 16, and I attended our first DCI World Championship week ever. I will never forget how green the turf looked as we walked out of the tunnel at Ralph Wilson Stadium on the afternoon of quarterfinals. The heat was intense, but we were so excited. That led to a second honeymoon of sorts for Deb and I the next year in Madison, Wis., coincidentally during the week of DCI World Championships. Deb enjoys the shows, but not quite as intensely as I do, so I know it was a bit of sacrifice for her to sit there with me all three nights. Still, she has always supported me in my love of this activity, and my excitement had grown to a point where I really wanted more. I wanted to be "a part" of the Cavaliers, somehow contributing in a meaningful way. As we headed home, I asked how she would feel about us partially sponsoring a young man the next year. In other words, contribute towards his corps fees for the summer. She smiled and didn't hesitate with her reply, "That sounds like a great idea." We sponsored our first Cavaliers in 2003 -- Doug Steinmetz, a bass player from Kentucky, and Mike Hodges, a member of the tenor line from Indiana who is attending school in Texas. I came to know them by accident, actually. When we first contacted the office and asked about sponsoring a member of the battery who would be willing to share his summer with us, they selected a member who ultimately was unable to march, so the office staff later asked if it would be OK to split our sponsorship money between two other deserving members. "No problem," I thought. Within days, both young men had sent us e-mails introducing them and offering their thanks. The first time I met Mike and Doug was a hot afternoon in Port Huron, Mich., during a water break. The guys approached me to shake my hand. They acted as if they had all afternoon to visit, although minutes later they were rehearsing again, and I was snapping photos like a maniac. Something else happened, though. From that day on, the guys went out of their way to share their summer with us through their eyes. I savored every piece of "snail mail" they took the time to write and send me -- just to say "hi," where they were and how hot or wet it had been, how rehearsals and shows were going. Even better were the few times we had the chance to attend a show and spend some time visiting with the corps. The guys always made time for us and wanted to know what we thought of their performance that night. It didn't take long to realize that my e-mails, cheering, visits and an occasional "care package" sent to them during the tour were every bit as important to these guys as the financial support -- maybe even more. That has led to friendships that have lasted far beyond each tour, with the guys and their families keeping in touch via e-mails. Last year we added bass player Austin Weber to the mix, again at the suggestion of the office staff when I inquired about "adopting" another member. Austin's a great young Texan who also shared what turned out to be a really difficult but rewarding summer for him. Deb and I traveled to Denver last summer for another DCI World Championship week, and I made a point of making sure the guys finally met her. After all, she's the one who always made sure the care packages included plenty of extra strong sunblock, word puzzles, snacks, etc. Two of those guys aged out last year and another has decided to age out with another corps. We enjoyed one more opportunity to visit with them all at the Cavaliers banquet in Chicago last December. By then, we had already selected the guys we will partially sponsor in 2005. This time we chose our own members, and each for a different reason. It was an easy decision. I met Matt Bartosiewicz (bass 5) briefly while visiting with my other guys after a show last June in Michigan. I shot a photo of the bass line and sent one to his mom in Pennsylvania after seeing her post on the Cavaliers Web site. We began to e-mail and eventually met in person in Denver. I didn't know it at the time, but during our stop at the Cavaliers pre-finals party in Denver, I met and took photos of the family of Jordan Thomas (tenors). I offered him sponsorship after he responded to one of my posts on the Web site and later e-mailed me. Finally, meeting parents and sharing photos -- at least via the website and e-mail -- also led us to our third Cavalier for 2005, Josh Dorgan (contrabass). All of the guys we've sponsored live far away from us, but it doesn't really matter. In the short time we've been involved, we have met some of the finest people on this planet. I recall an afternoon snack last August in Denver with Mike Hodges' folks and some friends of theirs who were sponsoring a member of the Cavies pit. We were tablemates with them at the banquet. In Denver, we also met more of the incredible support staff that keeps the Cavaliers going, including Craig Bales, Fred Olin and Tom Freeman, each a doctor. We've met a number of other Green Machine parents as well. One I met on the Web site was Irene Laydon, whose son, Mark, is a guard veteran. She gave us some wonderful directions to the high school where the guys would be rehearsing during finals week. Others we got to meet in person; including Eileen and (famous 2004 guest tour chef) Uwe Rudnick. We shared some seats on semifinals night along with our excitement of watching their son, Kai, and the rest of the Green Machine drive the crowd nuts with "007." The list goes on and on. Corps director Jeff Fiedler and other members of the Cavaliers staff have always been wonderful about simply stopping for a quick conversation on their way to the buses after a show, or letting this obsessed fan get close to the guys during a rehearsal so I can take home some wonderful memories with my camera. That's just a sampling of how the Cavaliers have "adopted" us as well, in a sense. But it's really just frosting when you consider how much helping out a young man means to him and his family, especially in this activity. When I hear someone lament about "today's" generation, I simply point to a drum corps member. When these kids aren't marching, they're in school, holding down jobs and keeping up with winter guard activities, teaching music or juggling a host of other activities during the off-season. Most importantly, they're becoming tomorrow's leaders, bringing with them the same work ethic, dignity and respect they've honed through countless hours of rehearsal in the summer heat on football fields across the country, during unending bus rides and during intense performances where they learn – ultimately -- that winning is all about preparation, best effort and pride, regardless of scores. One of the things I've learned on this "journey" is that no single drum corps has cornered the market when it comes to having a truckload of outstanding young people who give up summer jobs and vacations to work the hardest they ever have, and all simply for the love of the game and the thrill of performing. A young girl from Michigan (whom we helped a little with her corps fees for two years) taught me that. She marched with Dimensions and then moved on to Marion Glory Cadets before leaving the activity, but we still keep in touch. Matt Leide [And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: Fanfare -- September 19, 2003] has also been instrumental in reminding me that, while drum corps by its very nature is competitive, there are no rivalries when it comes to folks who offer sponsorship. Matt is a Phantom Regiment volunteer who has sponsored a number of corps members and is the man behind Phantom's successful "Ambassadors" [Phantom Regiment Ambassadors Program: Fanfare -- June 18, 2004] sponsorship program there. He wrote me after one of my Forzato photos was published on the DCI Web site, and we have since traded photos of "our" kids as well as our own sponsorship stories. "It's great to see how others have also found the joys of tuition sponsorship," Matt wrote me in that first note in June 2004. "Sure, I help the corps, too, but I get the most enjoyment out of getting directly involved with the marching members. The first year I did this was for the 2003 season. I helped three Cascades and two Phantom Regiment members. This year I've been able to help five Phantom Regiment members. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you how much fun it is to hang out with the corps and see what a great group of young people can do," Matt added. "The most surprising thing about my experience is how much my own life has changed since I've started to help these kids." I tell people who will listen that sponsoring a corps member -- whether you can afford $50 or $500 -- is worth more than, well, more than I can do justice with in words. It's sort of like attending your first live drum corps show. You might not know what to expect, but once you're there, you just know you've stumbled onto something very special, something that will undoubtedly enrich your life for years to come. What you might not know at first is this: The few bucks you invest in the summer of a lifetime for just one corps member will never be forgotten by that young person. In the end, the dividends last a lifetime for both of you. I know that because I'm planning to take the next step, in spite of my work schedule. Sure, I'll be visiting my guys in Kalamazoo, Mich., this July, and I'll definitely be on the east coast during DCI Championship week this summer. But, I'm also hoping that the last couple of weeks or so of the Cavaliers 2006 tour will find me traveling with the corps -- cooking, washing dishes, loading boxes, whatever -- as a volunteer. It's certain my co-workers will think I'm nuts, as will some of my family members. That's OK. Like I said, I've never marched drum corps, but I am part of this drum corps family now, and I understand my small contribution has made a difference -- not only in the lives of a few young men, but also in mine. Still don't believe me? Meet me in Providence and Foxboro this August and I'll tell you all about it. To learn about drum corps members still searching for sponsors for this season, contact your favorite corps. 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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