Over the past few months, two different e-mails were sent to me with the title, "Drum Corps Saved My Life." The first was from Jimmy Kearney, who marched with the Spirit of Atlanta in 1979. The second was from Rachael Waggoner, who marched with the Colt Cadets from 1998 through 2000, the Emerald Knights in 2001 and has marched with the Blue Stars since 2002. Here are their stories, starting with Jimmy's contribution. I was in high school in 1979 and was flunking out of everything except music. I loved and still love music, playing tuba in school in my later school years and trombone in my earlier years. I was ready to quit it all except I had heard Spirit of Atlanta perform. Man, what I heard was great. I told people I wanted to try out with them and was told it was impossible ... no way could I make them. That year they wanted to have eight contras. I went to a rehearsal and tried out in front of Jim Ott. I was a complete idiot, but somehow I made it. We started practice with G bugles. I was lost. I met a guy that became a good friend, drill writer Dave Bandy. We got to be good friends and he let my mother know that I was undisciplined. That had a big effect on my life. Corps made me drive for excellence and made me realize I could do it, that I could be good and better than I thought possible. After I finished the 1979 season, I went up to the Cadets with Dave. I could not afford to march the corps, but I thank Dave for the effort. Don Angelica gave me a ticket back to Atlanta. I still need to donate that money back, and shall do so this year. I used the advice and knowledge gained from corps and joined the United States Navy. That gave me the rest of the discipline I needed to become a whole being. If it were not for the Spirit of Atlanta, I probably would be someplace other than where I am now. Spirit gave me the chance to do what I wanted to do, as they do with so many young people every year. As a veteran of drum corps and the U.S. Navy, I salute all the corps. Jimmy Kearney The following is the contribution sent in by Rachael Waggoner. I am a member of the Blue Stars. This is my seventh year in corps, my third with the Blue Stars. I am in the color guard and am proud to be the flag line captain of the corps' guard this year. I wish to share how corps saved my life, though the impact corps has made on me truly cannot be expressed. Drum corps can change a person's life. It saved mine. All through grade school, I cried every day. I faced ridicule, mockery and occasionally violence. No one seemed to like me. One day in fifth grade, the director of Colt Cadets came to speak to my band and told us about his corps. It seemed great, but I played clarinet, so I didn't think too much about it. The next year, he came back. This time, he read a quote from a then-current member about how our best friends were in the corps and we didn't even know them yet. That quote really hit me. I had a chance of making friends at this "drum corps thing." It took a lot of bargaining, but I finally got my parents to let me march. My brother joined, too. At that point, I wasn't yet sure what corps was all about. My first rehearsal introduced me to my first real friend. She was sitting outside the school and introduced herself. We began talking, and it turned out that she was so much like me that it was scary. She too was a clarinet player who was joining guard and wanted to make friends. From that day on, we became great friends, and although we've gone separate ways as far as corps affiliations, we remain good friends and make a point to see each other at shows and spend time together during the off-season. I met the girl who provided the quote the director read at my school, the one that convinced me to join. She was amazing and also came from a corps family. Her dad, two sisters and brother had all marched, and it was her second year in the Colt Cadets. I never told her that it was her quote that made me join, but it was her that made it all happen. She became my best friend, and we were inseparable. If I had friends in grade school, I probably wouldn't have joined drum corps. Having had all the experiences I've had in corps made my whole early childhood worth it. Corps is the best thing that has happened to me, and I am forever grateful that such an activity exists. I owe everything I am to this activity, because it's helped me grow as a person. I've got six years under my belt and four left. Ten years is a long time, but not long enough. You can't have too much of drum corps. I will never end my involvement in corps; it will just have to take another form after I age out. So to all of you who are recruiting, never forget to speak to a whole group of people and not just to your friends. You never know who's going to be sitting in the corner trying not to be seen. And to everyone involved in drum corps, thank you for keeping this activity going. I live, breathe and dream drum corps. It has meant the world to me, and as I march my last four years, I hope that I can change at least one person's life by introducing them to drum corps. I wish to share with you a poem that I wrote about the 2003 DCI World Finals. I wrote it in my advance-placement literature class, and it has become one of my most meaningful poems. Finals Lights blaze, buzzing loudly.
But the monotone drone is muffled
By the notes from our hearts
As the horns come up with a click. All at once, bodies move,
Flags spin,
Drums are struck with a rhythm.
Pounding out our message like the ancient tribes. Eight and-a-half minutes and it's done.
The command to relax releases
Round drops that roll slowly down cheeks.
Pain pours at the season's end. Our staff dons sunglasses
Clumsily shielding tears
That burn harsher than the Orlando sun.
Silence crescendoing in emotion. Speeches delivered, more tears stream,
Arms encircle our joy in hugs.
Marching back to the truck,
The heavens begin to cry with us. Hours later, we return.
Rain threatens to dampen our day.
No finale. Yet we can sit in the stands.
Not us. We stand. Six-pointed pride snaps to attention.
They announce the scores.
Symbolically framed beneath us read
"World Champions" And we were. Rachael Waggoner
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.