The Dec. 20, 2002 installment of "Fanfare" ended with the statement, "The important thing isn't where you march. The important thing is that you march." This sentiment was borne out by two recent submissions from readers, personal testimonials that should be read by every youth contemplating whether or not they should march in a DCI corps prior to their aging-out, and every adult who has access to marching in a senior or alumni/reunion corps.
Don Smith is a research and development manager of a large company supplying concrete reinforcement, and is also a free-lance journalist for the motorcycle industry. Don states, "I am 39 years old and was first exposed to DCI around 1978 while marching in a high school band. In 1980, I tried out for Spirit of Atlanta, along with another friend. We both made it in -- he on soprano and I on baritone. "However, due to grades in school, I had to attend summer school and could not march during tour. I practiced all winter and slept on all those gym floors all winter, only to have to withdraw in the spring. "It is one of the biggest regrets I have in my life, and I would love to share my story with your readers to serve as motivation for them not to miss out like I did. After that summer, I went to college -- still majoring in music, but having to work summers. I never had another chance. "Just like the Eminem song says, you only get one chance, and I blew mine. I still follow DCI and recently got to meet a busload of members passing through my city on the way home from finals. It brought back a lot of memories. "I still regret not keeping my grades up well enough to march, even though it was over 20 years ago." Frank Etzel is a 54-year-old information technology specialist for IBM Global Services. He sent me an e-mail that began with the words, "Drum corps ... It will be you all of your life. March while you can." These are words that should be emblazoned on the bedroom and dorm walls of anyone thinking of marching a corps. Frank remembers, "When I was growing up, one was frequently told, 'youth is wasted on the young.' Fortunately, now that I am gray-haired and in my 50s, it seems we older ones no longer often use that phrase. It did get me thinking about my brief participation in drum corps ... what might have been ... and how to this day drum corps is still a part of my life. "My first exposure to drum corps was in 1964. A high school friend's brother-in-law was a French horn player in the Hawthorne Caballeros, and I tagged along to the 1964 Dream Contest at Roosevelt Stadium. I watched up close as Blessed Sacrament practiced under the stands, and was overwhelmed by the sound and was in awe of the precision. The contest was spectacular; my most vivid memory being St. Kevin's Emerald Knights. Little did I know that day that from then on, drum corps would drift in and out of my life. "I had a cousin who was marching with the Little Falls (N.J.) Cadets, and he suggested I attend a practice. I was soon deciding if I should learn tenor drum or baritone bugle, and I marched as the latter for the 1965 season. This was my junior year of high school at Paterson Eastside (yes, the Principal Joe Clark school from the movie 'Stand and Deliver') and I was shocked at how many other students marched in local drum corps. I was pleasantly surprised when I was switched to contra bass for the 1966 season, and in the fall, I left for college, hoping to return to drum corps when conditions permitted. "When I returned home for Christmas break, my Little Falls Cadets friends had migrated to the Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights, and they suggested I attend a practice with them. Next thing I knew, I was in the legendary Newark basement being auditioned by Dick Burns for a contra bass slot, and to my surprise, I was offered a position. The next day I learned the 'National Emblem March,' which I still remember to this day. I actually dressed and participated in a standstill exhibition, and then discovered that the LFC friends had neglected to tell anyone that I was returning to college. The spot in the contra bass line went to another Eastside student from another local corps. "Nevertheless, I was ecstatic that I had been good enough to make it to the big time, and felt I would be back in drum corps in the future. Unfortunately for me, that time never came. I encourage any of you who have the ability to march, but are undecided or unsure about committing the time ... the best time is when you are young and can choose your commitments and choose how to use your time. "Enough of the negatives, already, for in the years that followed, I met many others from this 'niche activity' from which you just never seem to get away. I spent 1970 through 1976 in the National Guard, which precluded me from joining a senior corps. One night at work in 1973, I overheard someone whistling 'Flamenco Cha-Cha,' and it turned out this fellow was a Cabs solo soprano. I was soon attending practices and was introduced to the world of Maynard Ferguson, attending many concerts with the 'Hawthorne Sopranos.' "In 1976, a woman I worked with had a son and daughter who were marching with Garfield Cadets, and she invited me to the Dream show in their cheering/picnicking section. They told me about the dreaded 'Bridgemen,' whom they felt threatened the very existence of the activity. As the Bridgemen entered the field in their unconventional attire, I could feel the anger growing in me that these people might ruin all that I loved so much ... until I heard that magnificent first note of the 'William Tell Overture.' I lost my composure and was first threatened with loss of beer privileges, then exiled when I could not stop my enthusiasm for this show. "Over the years, I wondered if the 1976 Bridgemen were as good as I remembered, and my memory was affirmed the first time I played the Legacy Series DVD from that year. What I loved about the Bridgemen is how they looked outrageous one second, and then went 'old school' the next. You have to love a corps that started a song with 'I wish I Was in Dixie' (at the 1980 DCI World Championships in Birmingham, Ala). If someone told me I would love a show with a funky chicken and dancing bears, I would think they were hallucinating, but I love that 1980 show. "In 1981, I was 'married with children,' and had joined a lunchtime jogging club at work. There were two people in the club, identical twins, whom I felt I knew. But I could not figure out how I might have known them, until one day, one asked me if I knew Peggy Mann. I gasped, as she was the Little Falls Cadets' guard captain in 1967, right after I marched with the corps. "It turns out the twins were Joe and John Fazio, who marched Caballeros for many years and are still involved with the corps. Both marched in the Woodsiders junior corps in the 1960s, while I was in Little Falls Cadets. When I asked John how he knew Peggy, he replied, 'She's my wife.' It was a true-blue drum corps family, as Peggy's brother marched soprano for the Golden Knights in the 1960s. "Unfortunately, from time to time, a name you recognize shows up in the obituaries, yet on the positive side, you find some you marched with are now members of the Drum Corps Hall of Fame, or were drummers in a rock band! "The PBS broadcasts kept me in touch for many years, as well as one or two contests per year. With the advent of the new millennium, I was astounded to acquire some photos of Little Falls (including a non-gray self) from Moe Knox, the incredible cameraman who seems to have photographed every corps there ever was. I bought myself a G baritone from the Boston Crusaders when the corps switched to B flats, and I am now tormenting the house with my practice sessions. I made contact with a Little Falls alumni who has never left drum corps and has yet to find an alumni corps he will not march with. "So, there you have it, it seems with several alumni corps to join, my time may finally have come! (Almost forty years later.) I have many other positive moments in my life resulting from drum corps that I could include. "I urge you, if you are given the opportunity [to march], do so while you can. You never know what the future might be, but the memories and the excitement of the drum corps experience will be with you all your life." Calling all readers – Do you have a subject idea for a future installment of Fanfare? Let us know! Please send your contribution to Michael Boo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, hometown, corps affiliation (if applicable) and years marching with or working with the corps (if applicable). No anonymous comments, please. You will be credited for your contribution. 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 masters 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.