This is the story of how one person fell in love with drum corps and was able to march due to the help of one caring instructor.
Dave Rogers played soprano for Freelancers in 1991 and trumpet for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Band in 1996 and 1997. He discovered drum corps by accident on a Saturday morning in the fall of 1986, when he was flipping through the television channels looking for anything of interest to a 14-year-old. He came upon what appeared to be a marching band competition, thinking it might be "that drum corps thing that I heard my band director talking about to a few of the drummers. Steve Rondinaro and Don Angelica were announcing, and they started talking about DCI. I remember seeing Santa Clara and Blue Devils. WOW! "Three years later I went to see a drum corps show at Bakersfield College, with Mandarins, Velvet Knight, Freelancers, Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguard in attendance. The corps that wowed me the most was the Freelancers, doing the 'Empire of the Sun/E.T.' show. They were exactly what I thought drum corps should be, hard and military-like. That night, I decided that I was going to march with them within the next two years. "Forward to 1990. I was attending Bakersfield College and met some Freelancers who were in the college marching band. They said that I was good enough to play and they took me to a camp in December. (I skipped a wind ensemble performance and was yelled at by the band director). "That night, I auditioned and made the lead soprano section, amazing myself. In the spring, I realized that I couldn't come up with the funds to pay for tour, so I called John Zimny, the brass caption head. He told me I would be able to march and not to worry about the tour fee. I would be able to pay him back later by helping someone else to march in the future. "After retreat at DCI finals, the Freelancers had what was called an 'age-out circle,' where the entire corps would form a circle around all the age-outs. The corps would then play the entire show for them, and what an emotional run-though that was. Afterwards, the staff came through the circle and thanked and congratulated each member for marching with the corps. When John Zimny came around to me, all I could say was 'thanks.' And he asked, 'Aren't you glad I talked you into staying?' I don't remember what I said, but I'm sure he knew I was glad that I stayed. "I'm sure that John helped many horn players throughout the years. In 2002, I ran into a few Freelancers that I marched with, and one of them said that John Zimny was the father he never had and was always there when he needed help. "Upon my return from tour that summer, I joined the Army because I couldn't find a job and couldn't afford to go to school. In the fifth year of my time in the Army, my drum corps experience paid off when I auditioned for the 101st Airborne Division Band. I was an infantryman, freshly returned from Korea after a year, and hadn't really picked up my horn in five years. But I made the band, which was amazing and a dream come true! "All that I had practiced were my scales, all 52 majors and minors. When the sergeant who auditioned my told me to play an E-minor scale, I asked, 'Which one?' I think that's what got me in. Plus, I still had a good tone quality and articulation skills, for which I must give credit to Chris Nalls, a brass consultant for the Freelancers while I marched. "I was with the 101st Band for 15 incredible months. There were a couple of people like me, who had been able to get an 'on-the-job-training' position, but all the rest were graduates from the School of Music at Norfolk. Quite a few also had a degree or two in music. I am very proud to say that I played with that group. "Since getting out of the Army, I have worked with a few school bands, and was a part-time volunteer instructor with West Coast Sound, a small corps with a lot of heart. I wasn't able to pay anyone's tour fee, but I was able to ensure that everybody had a ride if they needed it. I still haven't paid anyone's tour fee, but I haven't forgotten, either. "I plan on sponsoring at least one person to march with a corps some day, but I am still putting myself through college and getting a career path straight. When I finally do sponsor someone, they will know who I am and who sponsored me. They, in turn, will also be asked to do the same for someone else. This is a very serious request and I want that person (persons) to know that John Zimny would also be helping them to march. I've always thought of it as a corps chain letter; bad things may happen if someone doesn't keep it going. :) "I remain a fan of drum corps today partly for the entertainment factor, but mainly because of the dedication and support of almost every staff member and corps member that I've had the privilege to work with. I enjoy seeing the feeling of pride, camaraderie and discipline on the faces of all the current members of drum corps today. I am also grateful for the opportunities that John Zimny and the Freelancers staff have given to me and for how drum corps has influenced the course of my life." Dave currently resides in Bakersfield, Calif. While attending college, he works for the Kern County Department of Human Services as a Human Services Technician for the CalWorks (cash-aid), Food Stamps and Medi-Cal (Medic-aid) programs. This year, he is marching with the Renegades Sr. Corps, which is directed by Chris Nalls, the former brass consultant for Freelancers whom Dave credits with helping him get in the 101st Airborne Division Band. Calling all readers -- Did you march in a small corps? Did you have a chance to march in a large corps, and you stayed in your small corps out of love and dedication? Please share your thoughts with us for consideration in a future "Fanfare" column. Send your contribution to Michael Boo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put "Small Corps" in the Subject heading at the top of your e-mail. Please include your name, hometown, corps affiliation (if applicable) and years marching with or working with the corps (if applicable). No anonymous comments, please. We will credit you for your contribution. Happy small memories! 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.
By Michael Boo