Lanah Kopplin will be contributing columns to DCI.org each Tuesday. Here's the second installment.
Drum corps friendships are unlike any friendship you'll ever make in the "real world." This is what I realized this past weekend. I went home for the weekend, and ended up going to my high school's football game, to watch my brother march with the band at halftime. While I was sitting in the stands, I saw my old best friend walk by. She and I had been friends for 13 years, starting in kindergarten and ending our senior years in high school. Since then, we've grown our separate ways. Honestly, I don't even have her current phone number. We still see each other every once in a while -- both of us have younger brothers in the band. But chatting with each other after concerts is just that: Chatting. We're more like acquaintances now than anything else. So when I saw her walk past me at the football game, I didn't say a word. I didn't try to get her attention. Quite frankly, I didn't want to. Things between us just weren't the same. Compare that to my experiences with Chris Reid. He and I marched together in the baritone/euphonium line with Pioneer in 2001. After that season we parted ways, but managed to still stay in touch. We'd see each other every summer, if our respective corps happened to be competing together at the same show. This past weekend I went to watch him play football for his college team. His team was up against the Rockford Regents from Rockford College -- Phantom Regiment's home base. In order to get down to see him, I went home for the weekend and convinced my parents to let me borrow their car. Then I drove almost two hours to good old Rockford to watch the game. While he showered up, I went to Beef-A-Roo, Rockford's finest eating establishment, then returned to spend some time with him before he left. We got to spend about 45 minutes together before he had to load up the bus and leave. Our friendship is stronger than ever. While my high school friendships waned after graduation, neither time, distance nor circumstance has been able to get in the way of my relationship with Chris. When we spent those few precious minutes together, time just seemed to fly by. We picked up right where we had left off. I haven't laughed so much or so hard in a long time. You just can't find friendships like this anywhere else. These are the people that you'll do anything for, because you know that they'll do anything for you. I didn't bother to exert enough energy to get my old best friend's attention, yet I jumped through hoops to get down to Rockford, just to spend a short time with Chris. I would do it again in a heartbeat too, for any of my corps friends. I don't talk to anyone from high school anymore. The things we shared just didn't mean anything to me. Once we went off to college, we pretty much forgot about each other. If not for the close quarters of high school, we probably wouldn't have been friends to begin with. All of that is different with drum corps. My buddy list is filled with names of people that I've marched with that I talk to on a regular basis. Chris and I only got to march one season together, but that was more than plenty to build our friendship. There's a level of trust that you build between corps friends that takes a whole lot longer to build in the real world. Being performers together on the field, we have to trust each other to know the show, know the drill, and to execute both as perfectly as possible. I need to be able to trust that the person next to me will make his set, so that I can make mine. This transfers off the field as well. Tour is an interesting time in your life, putting you into situations that you might have never been in before. I had never been away from home for such an extended amount of time before my first tour in 2001. Back then, I wasn't blessed with owning a cell phone, let alone one with nationwide coverage, so my communication with the "real world" was severely limited. That left me two options: isolate myself from everyone and everything, or jump in headfirst and make some new friends. Luckily, I chose the latter of the two, as did everyone else in the organization. We learned to depend upon each other, be it reminders to load our instruments, wake up in time for rehearsal, or have someone to talk to when times got rough. It's always good to know that you're not the only one running out of clean underwear, or getting a little homesick, or wishing that the food truck would stop serving beef stew yet again. These are the bonds that will hold you through in the years to come. When I let my old high school friend walk by, I knew that our friendship was essentially over. The girl that I saw pass me was not the girl that I grew up with. Both of us had changed, and we did so in different directions. We had become strangers to each other, only coming together when circumstances put us so. She's not the one that I call when I'm feeling down, or the one that I go to for advice, or to share something exciting. Nor do I turn to anyone from high school -- it's my corps friends that I share with. No one else can understand the frustration and loneliness that comes post-tour, or the excitement for upcoming camps. Not even my college friends can understand why I would willingly leave for a weekend, come back sore and exhausted, just to do it again the next month. The friendships that we form in drum corps are deeper and longer lasting. We "get" things that no one else would understand. There's a common bond between us that will always be there, no matter where we are or what we're doing. These are the friendships that will last a lifetime. Lanah Kopplin is a third-year euphonium player in the Phantom Regiment, and previously spent a year with the Pioneer. Lanah is a political science major at the University of Wisconsin (she's a Milwaukee native), and will age out in 2005. Past columns by Lanah Kopplin: I'm scared