Drum Corps International
Don't let the opportunity pass

Don't let the opportunity pass

by Drum Corps International

Tommy Beall is a 1991 graduate of Jacksonville State University and a former high school band director. He currently plays trumpet with many groups in the Rome, Ga., area that is now his home. He contributed the following with encouragement from Dr. Bill DeJournett, assistant director of bands at the University of Mississippi. I have been a fan of drum corps since the early 1980s and have the good fortune to have very good friends who have marched in many various drum corps. I had always wanted to march in a junior corps myself, but for various reasons it didn't work out that way. Some of the reasons were my own fault, but others were completely beyond my control. I want to tell my story so that if there are some young people out there who have the chance to march next year and are "on the fence," they will be encouraged to have the experience that I missed out on. It all started when I was in high school. I was in the 10th grade and my band director at the time was a great guy named Phil Min. He had been on staff with the Memphis Blues and Spirit of Atlanta, and that summer was working with Avant Garde out of New York. Early that summer, two trumpet players from my high school were recruited to fill two soprano holes that had appeared. Later that summer, two more soprano spots opened up and needed to be filled before finals week. Mr. Min asked if I would be interested and I was! But alas, I was just in the 10th grade and a little too immature at the time to be going off on a corps tour. I asked my parents, but they were not comfortable with me traveling across the country, especially since they had no idea what drum corps was. I did finally convince my mother to let me go, but it was too late. The soprano holes had already been filled. Later in my life, I was faced with the decision of where to attend college. Ever since 1983 when I saw the Jacksonville State University Marching Southerners at a band contest in Oxford, Ala., I knew that I wanted to go to school there. Just hearing the very first note of their show being played sealed the deal for me. 1985 was my first year there and boy was I intimidated by all the upperclassman and how well they played. I came out of high school being "top dog" and trumpet soloist for my high school band. I thought I was a good player but I had a lot to learn. I was humbled right off the bat when I was told I would be playing third part. I hadn't played a third trumpet part since I was in junior high school. I looked at it from the standpoint that I would be happy playing whatever part they wanted me to and I would do it to the best of my ability and just sit back and wait for my turn. I was proud to play third trumpet in the Marching Southerners. Heck, even the JSU Fight song has a cool third trumpet part and I enjoyed playing it. I rolled through my first year and just had a blast. I grew up a lot and really learned that I had a lot of work to do if I was going to play first part there. I have always had a very good range but I lacked the tools and technique needed to become a really good player. I listened to a lot of different trumpet players who had a good sound and an incredible upper register. And even though I could play high, I had to learn how to project that sound so everyone in the stands could hear it over the entire ensemble. I called my first season an incredible learning experience. My first year was over before I knew it and I came home to work during the summer, but my plans got busted because I was injured in a car accident and was not able to return to school that fall. I was out of commission and was bedridden for two months and then I started rehab. I was able to walk about two weeks prior to the JSU-Troy State game and was able to come back and march the show. I learned all the drill and music in about two days and had a blast. I really enjoyed being back. For me it was the closest thing to drum corps I had ever experienced. I thought about marching in a corps that coming summer, but money was always an issue. My parents were older when they had me so with six brothers and two sisters, money was scarce. If I hadn't received a scholarship to JSU, I probably would have gone to a junior college and never gone to JSU. Many people in the Southerners had drum corps experience. At one time in the early 1980s, the Southerners boasted membership from every single top-12 drum corps. When I was a student, there were members of the band who had marched with Spirit of Atlanta, Southwind, Suncoast Sound, Garfield Cadets, Bridgemen, Sky Ryders, Phantom Regiment, Cavaliers, Madison Scouts, Santa Clara Vanguard and the Blue Devils, among others. Many band members who had marched corps asked if I had ever wanted to do it. I did but I couldn't see myself paying all that money when I really needed it for school. I never did have the "what the heck" attitude and didn't go for it like some of my friends did. I always seemed to back out because I knew that I needed money to get me through college. My third year at JSU was a blast. I was in the upper lead section, I had become a better player and my range had increased dramatically. I was popping double Gs without any problems and I could peel paint with it, too. I finally got my chance and go a scream solo when we played "La Fiesta." It was then when people really started to notice my high note abilities. I never really practiced playing high. It just came naturally. I always had a good ear and I thought if I could hear the note, I could play it. I did learn, though, that to do so, I had to be able to breathe and put a lot of air into the horn. It was the following summer that I was home for summer vacation and I got a call from Paul Tallent. He and I had marched at JSU and were in jazz ensemble together. Paul had marched several seasons in the soprano line at Spirit of Atlanta, had aged out, and was working with the Florida Wave. They had a need for a scream soprano player and he thought of me. They were playing a lot of Maynard Ferguson charts during the show and I had soloed on several of the Maynard charts in the JSU jazz ensemble. The corps offered me a spot on Paul's recommendation and said they just wanted me to go out and scream those solos. I was offered the spot dues-free since it was after the season had started. All I had to do was to make it down to Florida. I thought and thought but I had to make money for school that summer so I turned them down. My mistake. When I saw them at Legion Field in Birmingham that summer I wished I had done it. I just was scared to take the risk. Chalk that one up to lack of guts or the realization that I needed college money more. Jump to 1988. I had decided that I wanted to march but I didn't know with whom. I thought, "Hey! Maybe Madison." I checked the audition dates and I had a conflict. So I called and spoke with their brass caption head. There was no way I could make it to Wisconsin for tryouts so he told me to send a videotape of me playing and he would let me know. I piddled around and ended up not making the tape and never sent it in. That was my mistake because I was at the point of no return -- I would be 22 the next summer. That was my last chance. I sat and watched DCI finals that August of 1988, enjoying it immensely, until they announced the results and Madison had pulled off the incredible show. They won! I sat there, dumbfounded, because I knew that could have been ME out there getting a medal put around my neck and a ring on my finger saying "DCI Champions." I had let the opportunity slip by. I did, however, get my chance to feel what drum corps was by being an inaugural member of the CorpsVets senior corps from Atlanta. I marched the first two years of the corps' existence. I got to feel like I was at DCI Finals marching with a G bugle. I got to perform on the field as a member of the CorpsVets. It was a great moment. I felt like I had gotten my moment of drum corps, FINALLY, and it was great. I still wish that I had marched in a junior corps. I would have really gotten a feel for it and what it was really about. I loved my two years in senior corps, but I never did get to have that feeling of accomplishment of performing at a DCI Finals. I lost my chances to march in a junior corps. If there is anyone out there who has never marched corps and wanted to, then you should do it at least once before you are too old. It is something that you will look back on and enjoy immensely. Life is too short to not go for your dreams. 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.