Austin Moldenhauer had been removed from drum corps for a couple of years.
Moldenhauer, a Boise State University student and an alum of the Tri-Cities, Washington Open Class corps, Columbians, had always mused amongst friends about starting a drum corps. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down what would have been his third season of drum corps, life followed its own winding paths, and months passed by.
Admittedly, he missed the marching music activity; he was still of marching age, but — based on life circumstances — wasn’t quite sure of the best way back in.
“I was super bummed out about not being able to participate in (2020). And then, I felt like it didn't necessarily feel right, going back to the activity to march myself,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘I don't know if I have that in my ability, as a college student, recently married, trying to get by.’”
But when Moldenhauer attended a 2022 DCI Tour event in Boise, Idaho, everything clicked back into place.
“I wanted to (perform), but I also thought, ‘Is it really accessible for me?’” he said. “I thought, ‘You know, maybe there's something I can do on the other side of things to actually help get something started for other people that would make it more accessible for them as well.”
Promptly, the Boise Gems were born. With Moldenhauer as its director at age 21, Gems Drum & Bugle Corps, a brand-new marching music organization based out of Boise, is officially off and running, with plans to perform as a Drum Corps International SoundSport ensemble in 2023.
While Gems didn’t officially come into being until the fall of 2022, original discussions on forming a drum corps organization in Boise dated back to before the COVID-19 pandemic, amongst Moldenhauer, Gems now-brass caption head Steven Jones and now-percussion caption head Brenden Williams.
The group of Boise State students and marching arts community members, simply, saw the opportunity to fill a geographical need.
“What started the idea, we said, ‘Idaho needs a drum corps,’” Moldenhauer said. “Growing up in this area, we’ve seen a void in our community for the marching arts. Our goal was to try to make an accessible group for people in our area.”
The Gems organization, in just its first handful of months, has already begun achieving that goal.
According to Moldenhauer, Gems’ first rehearsal in January drew more than 30 students — a promising start for a brand-new organization.
“I got goosebumps from day one,” Moldenhauer said. “I was walking around, and thinking, ‘Oh, everything's working.’ It's a machine that’s doing its own thing.”
Thanks in part to the power of social media, interest in Gems has only further snowballed since the organization’s official start.
The ability to legitimize and provide a lens into the organization’s operations and activities, according to Moldenhauer, has been a major piece in generating further excitement surrounding Gems from students, band directors and other community members.
“Once we had that first camp, once we posted some pictures that showed what we were actually doing, it really just took off,” Moldenhauer said. “We were getting emails — I still am getting emails, every other day or so, with multiple people asking about auditions, parents asking about auditions.”
“More band directors have reached out to us who were a little bit apprehensive at first,” he added “They're now saying, ‘Oh, this is great.’”
In the short term, Gems’ goal is to field a SoundSport ensemble in 2023, with a handful of local performances on their schedule.
The long-term goal, however, is to build something that lasts far beyond the summer ahead.
Gems’ 2023 production, in name and in concept, embodies exactly that; an organization whose roots, identity and brand all intentionally tie into the fabric of the Boise area and Idaho as a whole. The corps will utilize the state’s motto as the name of its inaugural program — “Esto Perpetua,” which translates to, “may it live forever.”
For Gems — that’s the plan.
“Our hope, as a team, is to establish something that will last,” Moldenhauer said. “This is the start of a new group, this is going to be making drum corps history, this is going to be making Idaho history. We want to be a group that lasts a long time.”