By Krista Miller, I haven't always been a drum corps fan. I haven't always dreamed of marching and I haven't grown up surrounded by anyone who had ever marched. But this past summer, I fell in love with drum corps, and I can't even begin to tell you what it did to me.

Krista Miller
After making the decision as to where to audition, actually getting through the nine-hour drive to the camp, auditioning and getting a spot, I was officially clueless. I know every marching member has had this thought: "What am I doing here?" I remember beings surrounded by some of the best musicians I'd ever been around, fearing that even though I'd made it, I was inadequate. Everyone remembers that "I can't make mistakes" feeling. The good news is that you don't have time for that feeling to last very long! This leads me to the five key things that my rookie season of drum corps taught me.
1 -- Unconditional Love. Yes, that's right, unconditional love. I could tell you all the ways I learned about unconditional love, but we'd be here for hours. It's things like getting hurt during everydays and knowing that everyone is there for you, and supporting you while you do what you have to do to get better. "Work smarter, not harder!" It's knowing that your drum major is the last person to go to bed, and the first to get up. It's knowing that your director wants to sit and talk about your feelings, and will bend over backwards for you personally and the corps as a whole. It's meeting your soul mate, and finding out he loves drum corps just as much as you do, even if he discovered it earlier than you, and in a different place. 2 -- Tolerance. Tolerance is key. You know that guy who always stood in the aisle when he was finished changing, and how you couldn't even find room to put your feet on the floor so you could get your uniform on? He's not going away, and he'll continue to put his butt in your face, and stand in your aisle space all season.
3 -- Dependability. This one is huge. Sometimes, and I can't even tell you when it really hit me, but sometimes you don't even realize the MAJOR role you play as an individual in your corps. I didn't at first. I mean, I understood that what I was doing was steeped in history, alive with memories, and had a tradition of excellence, but I never saw the true picture until it was time. I'm convinced that not everyone always "figures it out" in drum corps. Something that we always used to hear this summer was "everything you do affects every member of this organization," and it's completely true. I learned that it's not about me and how I felt, it was -- and is -- about how what I was doing was helping the corps, my friends, my family. 4 -- Trust. "Will you put my uniform and horn on the truck for me? I've got to go meet someone." Now, anyone who has ever marched knows the importance of getting your stuff on the truck after a show. If you can trust someone with everything that is vital to your existence in the summer, you've got it going on. I've never trusted anyone like I trust those that I marched with this summer. I really can't explain it, but once you've experienced it, you know what I'm talking about. 5 -- Loyalty. Remember when you were little, and you'd stand up for whatever you believed in no matter how silly it might have seemed? Drum corps is a lot like that. I like to think of myself as that little kid on a huge playground standing up and saying, "This is what I love and I'm going to do it no matter what." In a lot of ways, being with a corps is like being a little kid again. Little things upset you, you have certain times to do things, and you have to do what you're told. The good thing about all that is that you develop a love for an organization, for your "family" of sorts, and a very deep and incomprehensible loyalty. You find yourself angry at the guy who just "didn't get" your show. You're mad when you have to listen to your parents talk about how they don't understand why it has to be so expensive. And most importantly, you get angry because you think that no one back home understands. For many of us, unfortunately, not many people back home do understand. We return home so excited about a camp weekend and there's no one there to share the enthusiasm with. We long for someone to jump up and down about the show concept with, someone who understands why we sleep on hard floors and eat food prepared for hundreds. And while I can't explain how it works, it just does. It's almost magical how despite all of the odds at home we still manage to get back to camp, eventually finding ourselves at everydays and even sooner finding ourselves riding back home from finals. For some unexplainable reason, we develop such a strong attachment and loyalty to this thing that we do despite any grief or heartache it might cause. We realize that the 134 other members depend on us and that our decisions affect them directly, so we make our choices based on the good of the organization. We become loyal, and if we're lucky we stay that way.    All of you know that drum corps is an incredibly hard thing to explain. Those of us who march, wherever it might be, or whenever it might have been, have a common bond. There's nothing like being out in Blacksburg while sporting something with the corps name on it and having some random person you've never seen in your life say "you marched drum corps?!" It truly is a unique activity. After coming home and letting things sink in, you realize that there is so much to be missed. A special friend of mine told me once, "When you go home after the summer, you'll remember specific events, but the details like where and when it happened just mix together." As of late, I'm finding this to be truer than ever. Holding on to all the memories is hard, but I can't imagine not marching. It was life-changing in so many different ways. People change, things change, and people come and go, but the mark in history that I leave on my corps lasts forever. I'll always remember that 2003 corps and it will always have a special place in my heart. Leave your mark somewhere -- don't just talk about it, do it!    Thanks so much to the 2003 corps, drum majors, staff, volunteers and everyone else who helped me personally, any member, or just the corps in general get down the road this summer. We couldn't have done it without you! Krista Miller is a junior communications major at Virginia Tech living in Blacksburg, Va. This past summer was her rookie season with the Glassmen. She plans on pursuing a career in mass media. She'll be contributing frequent reports to Past articles by Krista Miller: Ten things every rookie should know Ten things to love about laundry day Ten reasons to love the bus Ten reasons to love drum corps