Drum Corps International
Drum corps is so much more than a score

Drum corps is so much more than a score

by Michael Boo

The following are the reflections and comments of Robin Wofford, who -- when he is not telling drum corps stories -- reads stories to children in a metro Atlanta area elementary school, where he's known as "The Guy-Brarian." The term "drum and bugle corps" has become synonymous with words like fraternity, subculture and family. In my years around the activity, I've always preferred the latter. This past season gave me the opportunity to see and experience firsthand just how much a family the drum corps activity can be. Spirit of Atlanta, as it was known in the early days, made its very first finals appearance at the 1977 DCI World Championships in Denver. It was a very successful first outing. They were 22nd place in only their first year of competition and went on to become DCI finalists for many years. My wife was in that corps from day one. It wasn't until George and Lynn Lindstrom formed the Memphis Blues Brass Band that I finally joined a corps. The first year of The Blues saw them finish in 20th place at the DCI World Championships. Something that should be mentioned at this point is that when Spirit was 22nd in '77 and Memphis was 20th in 1980, there were more competitive drum and bugle corps. Just to be among the top 25 was a big deal. The Spirit family went on to realize a dream and became one of the elite top-12 corps. My corps family unfortunately -- along with many others in the 1980s -- fell on hard times and ended up folding in 1983. We never got to march DCI World Championship finals. There were plenty of good times. We were a family. I wouldn't trade that for anything. Being who I was and where I was at that time in my life paved a path that I have walked throughout the years. I won't bore you with the long story of how my wife and I met, but we first chatted on the road in 1982. The season ended and Tracey and I went back to our respective lives outside of drum corps. Over the years, we bumped into each other at a couple of shows. But it wasn't until the end of the 1995 season as I came off tour with Southwind that we picked up the pace of our friendship -- one which quickly blossomed into an engagement and then marriage. Suddenly, I went from drum corps tour manager/single guy, to husband/stepdad. I went from taking care of other people's kids on the road to trying to learn how to be a good stepdad to my two stepdaughters. It was hard, but with a lot of patience on their part, we got through it and soon became a family. You see, that was something that drum corps taught me. Never, never, never quit. Because of the family-type atmosphere that we had both experienced, Tracey and I wanted to see our girls give band a shot and perhaps someday even try drum corps. We had no idea they would fall in love with it the way that they did. Jaime and Jessica both blossomed into fine musicians within their high school band. I have no doubt that it was her experience in high school band that led Jaime to finish high school and go on to the University of Georgia to major in music. We were thrilled last year when the girls approached us about marching with Spirit. From the many other roles that we have played in drum corps over the years; such as fans, members, staff, directors and show promoters. Tracey and I quickly learned a new role in drum corps: Corps parents. We went to a few rehearsals, the dress rehearsal, and all the local shows. Then in August, 27 years after Spirit's first appearance in Denver, Tracey, her mom (known as "Miss Ann" when she toured with Spirit of Atlanta in the 1970s and '80s) and I flew out to watch the girls at the DCI World Championships. As it is every year at DCI World Championship, it was a big family reunion. People from our past were there from all the corps we have been affiliated with over the years. A huge highlight was having breakfast with George and Lynn Lindstrom. George and Lynn's unselfishness and dedication to youth helped to make me who I am today. I know there are countless others who feel fortunate to have been affiliated with them in some way. The endless party and reunion of finals week zoomed by. We soon found ourselves at semifinals. As the scores were called out after each performance, I stood there hoping that the girls would have the same experience that their mom had and would be able to march finals. It was not to be. Unfortunately, their experience was more like mine. Spirit missed a finals spot by a microscopic margin, .075, less than one-tenth. Has to be one for the record books! I was sad for the kids, the staff and management, volunteers and the countless alumni that were there in Denver to cheer on the corps. As I am a lot older than I was when I aged out, and hopefully a little wiser, I know that drum corps is so much more than a score. If you take away the score part of it and look at the overall picture, Spirit had a successful season. They have a director, staff and management that believed in the kids. The organization is a family. They are ambitious and will pull together to once again make the climb up the ranks. As we flew home Sunday morning after finals, I was trying to process it all. I was reminded of what another drum corps family member of mine -- Dave Bryan (former Director of Southwind) – used to say to me at the end of every season that I was with the corps. "Did everybody eat? Yes. Did we make it to all the shows? Yes. Did anybody get hurt? No. Then we had a good year." Replaying that conversation in my head helped remind me that -- in time -- my stepdaughters will look back with fond memories of that summer in drum corps. They will carry stories with them for the rest of their lives about life on the road. And most importantly, the fact that they were there and were a part of it all will become what they remember -- rather than a number. 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.