Drum Corps International
Feeling a vibration in the soul: A mom discovers drum corps

Feeling a vibration in the soul: A mom discovers drum corps

by Drum Corps International

Fran Reno is one of the many wonderful people who have been responding to "Fanfare" via the "In the Stands" forum on Drum Corps Planet. She's a mother of a marcher in Seattle Cascades, and wished to share how she fell in love with drum corps via her son's interest. Let's hear her story in her own words. "I'm a parent who knew little about drum corps. I listened to my son Jared talk about it when he was in the high school marching band, and occasionally he brought home a tape or DVD of corps to watch. "Then off he went to the University of Oregon his freshman year, taking his trusty trumpet to audition for the marching band. They told him there were no open trumpet spots open, but asked, 'Can you play anything else?' Although he played trumpet in school, he marched mellophone. When he informed them of that, they said they had some mellophones and they wanted to hear him play one. After three minutes of listening to him on mellophone, they told him he had a spot in the marching band. "'You're marching what?' 'Drum corps, Mom, I want to march drum corps.' "Although I had been exposed to the activity through the tapes and DVDs my son had brought home during high school, I quite frankly didn't pay a lot of attention to them. Every once in awhile I'd sit down and watch a few minutes or so of those interesting formations on the field, or comment, 'Wow, they all threw up their flags at the same time.' I wasn't yet hooked. "When my son said he wanted to march, I told him he was over 18, and if he thought he could afford it, to go ahead and try out. He had been playing mellophone in marching band since his sophomore year in high school, and had since moved up to one of the lead mellophone positions in the University of Oregon Marching Band and made the exclusive Green Garter Band during his sophomore year. "Yes, I'm a proud mom of what my child has accomplished, but not so proud of my not understanding enough of what these young people go through to actually march with a corps for the summer ... the sacrifices that they make to their social and economic life. As with many parents, we sometimes don't truly understand something until it hits us full in the face. "Jared decided to march with the Seattle Cascades; an old corps, but new to Division I for the 2002 marching season. The season started with the kids on the road, and me getting notification that my son's vehicle had been impounded up in Washington from where he had parked it for the summer. 'Ye gads, $355 to get this out of hock within 72 hours ... what do I do now?' "Well, you know if you spend some time around a corps you quickly get to know other corps parents. One of the parents of another corps member was able to pick up my son's vehicle from the towing yard after I had paid the storage fees over the phone by credit card. It was a lucky thing that the corps was still close enough that the keys to my son's truck could be picked up by this parent, for which I am forever thankful. "The corps soon started the California portion of its tour. Although Cascades were in other close cities, I only went to the Santa Ana Extravaganza, having not 'gotten it' yet. Also, my employment at the time was one that required working on the weekends, and I had to beg for that one Sunday off as it was. "My husband and I got to Santa Ana early enough to see the Santa Clara Vanguard do its clinic for high school band members. Wow, those kids were good! They were already tanned to a crisp, were lean and looked ready for anything that might come their way, and they weren't even in uniform. "Our backs were to the sun, with part of the stadium field in sunlight and part covered by a shadow, when the show announcer started presenting the evening's program. The first on the field was a senior corps named SoCal Dream. [See last week's Fanfare column about the corps' director.] Although SoCal didn't have a lot of members last year, the sound the group made was 'in your face!' 'Hmm, this stuff is kinda cool.' "San Diego Alliance was next. 'This is getting better and better!' Then came Impulse and the Mandarins. There was a short intermission, allowing just enough time to hit the restrooms and grab something to eat or drink, so I took advantage of the time to do just that. "Coming back to my seat, I found that the stands had filled up with a lot of the senior corps members. Sitting next to my husband was a chap by the name of Sam who plays brass for SoCal Dream. I learned some of the basics of drum corps from this gentle man with an outrageous laugh. Sitting directly in front of us was a past corps member of the Cavies, and to the right of us an alumni of Impulse, and behind us a Renegade. "I had no idea at the time who these different corps were, but I was enjoying the color, music and overall programs. I kept wishing that the time on the field had been longer for each of the groups, because they were all so good. Sure, someone dropped a flag, or one of the judges almost got trampled when a contra line came in his direction, but all that seemed surreal, as if it was part of the show. "The Oregon Crusaders went on after the intermission, followed by the Seattle Cascades ... yay! But where's my son? I didn't see him on the field. 'Oh my God, he's playing up in the front by the pit as a soloist.' Oh my, tears started to flow, and I'm sure I missed at least half of the show wiping away the tears of pride. "Following him around on the field as best I could, I saw him again performing in the front during a duet. By this time, it was hard to contain myself, and Sam was encouraging me not to. 'Enjoy it,' he says ... 'drink it in, for you have just 'gotten it.' "The Blue Devils were up next, and I particularly remembered the 'hair' section. Santa Clara Vanguard closed the show with a tight performance. We left the stadium proper and head over to where the Cascade members were being fed. We found my son and his group sitting on the curb eating dinner after an awesome performance. "I looked at my son, whom I hadn't seen for three months, and I almost didn't recognize him. The kid had lost about 50 pounds, had a buzz haircut and was more tanned than I'd ever seen him. He introduced us to his friends, and said, 'By the way ... check out the truck.' 'Why?,' I asked. 'Well, Mom, you see, that food truck used to belong to Star ... Star of Indiana, Mom!' It was still meaningless to me, but I felt his enthusiasm and made the proper acknowledgements. "The scores were being announced, and although the Cascades came in third that night, it was the first time that their score was over 80.0. High fives were given all around. Still, I didn't know what that meant, but I applauded their enthusiasm. "It was soon time to leave, my son heading off in the heat of the night to Phoenix, and my husband and I back to the Antelope Valley of California where we live. It was a fitful drive, one of feeling a vibration in my soul that something had just happened to change my life, and another due to knowing that I wouldn't again see my son for several months. "The next day I got on my computer and started researching drum corps. Wow! I didn't know there was so much information out there. Of course, I found DCI's Web site and I think I read every single thing on it. Then I found Drum Corps Planet, a place that I now call my second home, and where I have found many new friends and have cyber-adopted both junior and senior corps members. "My screen name is 'Cascade Mama,' which sort of generates that mood of taking care of the corpies. George, Lisa, Randy, Dan, Sluggo and Bennie are just a few of the wonderful people there that have helped teach me the true meaning of friendship. They were online when the scores were being announced that put the Cascades into DCI World Championship finals. They cyber-hugged and cared for me, because each of them knew how important this new it was to me. "I asked countless questions during the summer leading up to finals, learning how judging sheets work and learning how to read recaps ... the basic statistical end of drum corps. Now, I'm slowly starting to learn the histories of each of the corps, and still making friends from around the United States. "Meanwhile, Jared is a junior, aging out this coming season. He's been in the Oregon marching band for three years now, is a member of the men's basketball band and Oregon's Green Garter Band, is on the band council and participates on the band's equipment crew. "All that and he's also an econ major! I thought my travels being an Air Force brat had taken me to a lot of places, but between the band and drum corps, he's already been places that I've never been. "This year, I promised Jared I would help him financially with his summer expenses (along with paying college tuition), but I lost my job in February after serving over eight years with the company that I was working with. This coming summer will be his age-out year and he has to march. "I started contacting everyone I knew to help. Remember Sam? Well, he and I met again on DCP shortly after I discovered the site, and I contacted him to see if he could help sponsor Jared this summer. He sent in a contribution for which I am forever grateful. (I still think you are an angel, Sam!) "Associates, prior customers, old high school band teachers ... no one has been left out. At this point, we are still a few hundred dollars short on the total tuition, and although it may mean that I can't make it to finals, the tuition will be paid before airfare, tickets and lodging in Orlando. "You see, I've learned what drum corps is. It's crying when I read Lisa's recent recounting on DCP of doing something from the heart because it just felt right. It's working weeks on end to do a presentation in partnership with GeorgeD at Drum Corps Planet for a 9/11 memorial presentation one year after. It's laughing out loud to see Randy write 'That's my Mama' on DCP. It's standing up for the 'corps that could' when no one thought they would. "It's making friends that last a lifetime, whether you march or not." (Editor's note: Jared Reno is a new columnist on DCI.org. His first installment can be found HERE.)