Drum Corps International
Drum Corps 101: A Life on the Road

Drum Corps 101: A Life on the Road

by Michael Boo

Carl Sagar marched with the Americanos' front ensemble in 2004 and the Oregon Crusaders' front ensemble in 2005 and 2006. He ages out in 2008. Currently attending the University of Central Florida as a business and economics major, he contributed the following essay. Not many people can say that they have spent an entire summer on the road, sleeping on buses and gym floors, living with as little as 30 or as many as 135 other people, eating every meal for two-and-a-half months in a parking lot off of a specially designed cooking or "chuck" truck, and practicing in the hot sun for hours on end. On top of all that, these participants are able to perform in front of thousands of screaming fans, night after night, in such world class venues as the Citrus Bowl, Mile High Stadium, Gillette Stadium, the RCA Dome and countless others, all filled to capacity for one entity ... the performers on the field. I first discovered the drum corps activity in 2002 at the age of 14, my freshman year of high school. I was a member of the marching band and was playing in the drum line when one of the older members told me about what he was doing over the summer with a drum corps. The entire conversation fascinated me, and I decided to go to the show that took place in Orlando at the Citrus Bowl. Upon stepping out of the car and into the parking lot, I received a warm welcome to what many others and I now refer to as "The Lot." From the moment I opened the car door, I was overwhelmed with the rush of noise and combustion that was soon to follow. To my left, the defending World Champions from the 2001 season, the Cavaliers, had their drum line warming up. To my right, the massive horn line from Blue Devils, known for playing tasty licks and screaming high notes, was blasting away with a sound that challenges the intensity and volume of a speeding locomotive. Upon entering the Citrus Bowl and taking my seat on the 45-yard line, I remember thinking to myself that my life was about to change. Now looking back on that moment, it brings a great feeling to me. On the hot summer night of June 21, 2002, I saw a variety of 10 groups play their hearts out to roughly 15,000 fans in the stands. Upon every impact, high note, perfect release and blasting ending, the stands erupted with pure chaos, happiness, joy and unfathomable awe. Looking down at the members on the field, I saw tears, sweat and the look of exhaustion and appreciation for what they had done. This night is memorable to be because I decided I wanted to be down on the field with sweat, tears, and the feeling of accomplishment that the lucky individuals were experiencing at that moment. Flashing forward to May 27, 2004, I was at the airport, my bags in hand, saying my goodbyes to my family who I would not see again until Aug. 10. I had been accepted into the Americanos and was on my way to finally getting a chance to spend my summer on the road like those people I had seen back in 2002 at the Citrus Bowl. The two-and-a-half hour plane ride was undoubtedly the longest two-and-a-half hours I have ever had to sit through due to my anticipation for what I was going to experience. Shortly after landing, I walked off the plane and was greeted by an administrative member at the airport who had driven out to pick me up. Her name was Sandy, and she was the first person I ever met in Wisconsin. We picked up my sleeping bag and other belongings from the baggage claim and were on our way to meet the rest of the corps at the school we would be staying in for our three-week move-in period. After those three weeks, I knew what those members at the Citrus Bowl were feeling. I could relate to their tired looks. For the first time in my life, I was actually tired. We set off on our month-and-a-half tour of the country on the morning of June 18. Our convoy consisted of two charter buses, a specially designed semi trailer with all of our equipment, and a specially designed semi trailer that served as our "kitchen" with industrial ovens and walk in freezers. That first trip was relatively short, taking us about two hours to reach the stadium where the night's show was going to take place in Wisconsin. After parking the buses and unloading our equipment truck, I was experiencing "The Lot" from a different perspective. Now I was one of the members that some of the younger viewers were gazing up at with sheer admiration. I was the person someone looked at as a "rock star." About an hour after unloading the truck and warming up in the parking lot, we began to suit up in our uniforms and head for the stadium gate at our designated time. As I pushed my equipment through the parking lot, I noticed the camaraderie that takes place in this activity, for with every competing group we passed, all of them turned to us and gave their applause to wish us good luck. It is not something one is accustomed to, especially in a competition. This act opened my eyes to the new world I was in. Everyone around me from all over the country was like my family in this little drum corps niche. Upon reaching the gate, we could see the audience moving about with commotion and excitement. The stands were filled with people from the area of all ages; people who had participated in the activity before and had now become humble and loyal fans, the average high school band kids who wanted to take in all that they could, and of course, the encouraging parents rooting for their children as they witnessed doing something they never thought they could do. My front ensemble instructor, Dan, called all of us into a small circle after we reached the gate. We all stood there, arms around each other, anxious as were finally going to perform in front of an audience. Dan began talking to us about his experiences when he was a member of a drum corps. He calmed us down and kept our focus on the task at hand rather than all of the people in the audience. After his pep talk, we all put our hands in the middle of the huddle and screamed as loud as we could to get ourselves hyped and ready to go. After breaking out of the circle, we stood by and waited for the group before us—the much smaller Marion Glory Cadets—to finish up. As soon as Marion finished, we started heading out to the field. When walking past Marion, kind expressions and gestures were exchanged as we congratulated them and they gave us their best wishes. Once we reached the front of the field, we waited for the horns, drums, and color guard behind us to set up, warm up, and get into place. As soon as we were set, the announcer began speaking into the microphone. The fans, ready for more, were on their feet clapping and screaming before he had even announced who we were. Our drum major gave the traditional salute, acknowledged the audience, and we were on our way. Before I knew it, the performance was over. I was so engrossed with what I was doing that I had no comprehension of time around me. I was "in the zone," so to speak. After the final chord and big impact ending, the audience exploded with applause. I can remember feeling my face blush and my knees tremble with their roaring acknowledgement. Before I knew it, the first person in the line began rounding up his equipment and heading off the field. We once again passed a group who was going on for the first time, and, like before, wished them all the best of luck. Moving forward fifty days, I was in Denver, Colo. where the season's final competitions were to be held. The entire summer seemed to flash before me and everyone else. We were finally accustomed to the odd lifestyle that is required to partake in the activity. Sleeping on gym floors, traveling on a bus for most if not all of the night, and being in the hot sun for what felt like countless hours. Before our final performance, as we gathered into the traditional group circle as before every show and all of the staff members came into the middle and gave their own little speeches. I knew why none of them were public speakers and why they were all musicians, and it was because each of them began to cry a little as they were telling us how proud they were of what we had accomplished. Shortly after, we took the field for the last time. I was able to hear the announcer introduce us to the audience, and I was able to visualize everything I was about to do to put on the perfect performance. Just like the first time, time flew by without even thinking. Before I knew it, the final chords were being played, and as the members on the field behind me made their way to the front sideline sounding like an approaching locomotive, I realized that I found my niche. I found what I truly loved to do. I found my home.
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.

Related News

View all news

by Drum Corps International

Corps news and announcements
Read more

by Dan Potter

2018 DCI season preview
Read more

by Drum Corps International

2018 schedule of live streaming events
Read more