Lanah Kopplin will be contributing columns to DCI.org each Tuesday. Here's her 12th installment. This is a difficult time in the lives of many drum corps members. Now that the first round of auditions is over, it's time for hard decisions to be made. There are many in the drum corps world that are searching for a home -- some for the first time, others for the second, or third, or even more. Now is when all of the thinking and deliberation happens -- the euphoria from audition camp has faded, and contracts sit, awaiting signatures.
What does it mean to have a drum corps home? For many, it means the friendships and relationships that are forged within a given corps. For others, it means the instructional staff, and having a certain mentor throughout a career. Some follow corps for their distinctive style, or for the way that they felt after the first (or 100th) time they've seen a corps perform. Whatever the reason, each person that marches in any drum corps has his own unique decision for marching there. It took me two tries to find my drum corps home. I spent the summer of 2001 with the Pioneer, based out of Milwaukee. When I first joined Pioneer, I had absolutely no idea what I was about to get myself into. I had never been to a drum corps show before, and only vaguely remembered seeing some kind of "drum corps thing" on PBS. Just to illustrate exactly how oblivious I was, I had to have people point out uniforms and tell me which drum corps they represented. We would pull into a show site, and my friends would tell me, "Those are the Madison Scouts, and over there is the Phantom Regiment." I had quite a bit to learn. That summer was a huge learning experience for me. As the season progressed, I was able to get a grip on this "drum corps thing," and really learn what it was all about. This was the time where I was able to really understand my opinions on the activity, and begin to enunciate what I wanted to get out of it. Once tour ended, I sat down and reflected on the past season. I had an absolute blast, and more than enough memories to recall on a whim. But then, everything changed. Soon after coming home from tour, I found out that my brass instructional staff would not be back for the 2002 season. This meant that my mentor, Jeremy Hackworth, would no longer be teaching the baritone/euphonium line. To this day, I have nothing but respect for him. He taught me what it meant to love drum corps, in all of its facets. He taught me how to "feel" music, and how to push myself farther than I ever thought possible. I struggled throughout the season, learning how to hold up that baritone. But Jeremy believed in me, and he helped me to believe in myself. If not for Jeremy, I seriously doubt that I would have finished out the summer. With Jeremy gone, I was left with a hard decision. I had made tons of great friends at Pioneer, and would have loved nothing more than to spend another summer with them. But somehow, something didn't seem right. I gave it a chance, and participated in the Pioneer audition camp for the 2002 season. Right away, I noticed that something was missing. It just wasn't the same without Jeremy, and I didn't like it. The home that I knew in Pioneer wasn't there anymore. That left me searching for a new home. Over the summer in 2001, I had the opportunity to watch Phantom Regiment's show grow and change. We were on a very similar tour as they were, so I was able to watch them night after night. In fact, I had seen them so many times that I had determined the best position in the stadium from which to watch their show! There was always something about Phantom Regiment that piqued my interest. I loved the way that they stood in third position, and I loved the music that they played. When I went on my quest for a new drum corps home, Phantom Regiment was the first place that I looked. That next weekend, I went to the Phantom Regiment audition camp. It was an entirely different world from the one that I had come to know at Pioneer. I remember feeling so intimidated by everything, especially the first time J.D. Shaw stood in front of the horn arc. He was wearing his infamous flame shirt, which very appropriately suited his fiery passion for his music. I also made the mistake of standing next to one of the most intense members of the horn line, Mr. Steve "ASU" Parker. He and I would eventually become very good friends, but that first impression still lingers with me today. Despite my intimidation, I was able to learn an enormous amount of information in just that one short camp. I had found a new mentor, but I was left without my friendships. I really didn't know what I wanted to do, or where I wanted to be for the 2002 season. In fact, I missed my Pioneer friends so much that I went back for part of their December camp, just to give it one more try. It was only after that camp that I realized that Pioneer was no longer the place for me. Looking back, I still remember how much of a stress this decision was. I felt like I was abandoning my friends, but at the same time, I didn't want to march where it didn't feel "right" for me. Fortunately, Phantom Regiment was my drum corps home. Not only was I able to find a mentor, I was also able to find other inspiring teachers and make tons of new friends. Moving from Pioneer to Phantom Regiment was the right decision for me. My advice to those in this position: March for yourself. Go where it feels "right" for you. We all speak of these lofty notions of tradition, friendship and loyalty, but they won't have any significance unless you truly believe in them. Drum corps is hard -- it takes a lot of strength and determination to get through a season. Marching somewhere when your heart isn't in it will make the season that much harder for you. We don't always get things right on the first try. Just imagine if you had to marry your first boyfriend or girlfriend! That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong in remaining with one organization for your entire drum corps career. Some people do get lucky and find their home on the first try. I was not one of those people. But when I did find my home, I stayed there. I am comfortable in the Phantom Regiment organization. I like the staff, I like the show, I like the people. Because of this, I have remained here for the remaining four years of my drum corps career. From the Bandettes through the Cavaliers, what is important is that you are marching there because that is where you want to be. Who cares what anyone else thinks? Every corps is unique, and not every corps fits every person. It doesn't matter where you make your home -- only that you are content with your decision. To those of you who are currently without a home, please give it one more try. There are a number of corps who hold another round of auditions this month in December. Give it a shot -- who knows, you might just find your own drum corps home. Lanah Kopplin is a third-year euphonium player in the Phantom Regiment, and previously spent a year with the Pioneer. Lanah is a political science major at the University of Wisconsin (she's a Milwaukee native), and will age out in 2005. Past columns by Lanah Kopplin: The Last audition Turkey-induced tryptophan Rhapsody in the chat room Amazing grace Are you ready? Get out there and vote Reflections from Whitewater Methodical hard work and passion Here's to the behind-the-scenes people Drum corps friendships A new column by the Phantom Regiment's Lanah Kopplin
Lanah Kopplin and Jeremy Hackworth, at the Rose Bowl during the Tour of Champions.