By Marco Buscaglia The drum corps season starts now. Sure, it's summer when the activity kicks in from part time to full time for most participants. But the 2004 season begins at that first rehearsal -- that first camp when spots are determined and decisions are made. While the top drum corps always draw huge numbers of marching band members and other drum corps enthusiasts to their first camp, most Division I drum corps are witnessing a substantial surge in those auditioning for a spot. There will be upwards of 400 kids at some of these camps. Trumpet players from Texas and snare drummers from Kentucky will travel to locations across the country to compete for spots in a top-12 drum corps. But what if they don't make it? What happens to the 300 or so prospective members from Corps A or Corps B that don't make the cut? Do they go home and spend another year planning for next November? Do they gnash their teeth and curse the corps that cut them? Those are options, I guess. But if you want to be a part of the activity -- if you want an educational and hands-on experience that has provided the groundwork for the lives of tens of thousands of people, don't pack up your horn and go home just because you didn't get a spot with the big boys. Here's the thing -- you can spend this winter stewing over a few missed notes during your audition. You can spend the summer watching shows from the stands, mentally placing yourself on the field with the corps that cut you while sizing up the talent for next year. You can even be productive, like make brownies for your favorite corps' drum staff and drop them off at the buses after the show. But there is another option. You could go march somewhere else. There are drum corps across the country looking for baritone players and pit percussionists and guard members. They have open spots for music majors and novices.
Set aside your perceptions and check out another corps. Chances are it will be filled with talented people like you, all wanting to live a bit of the drum corps dream. Try it for a season. If you get your experience and want to move on, fine. Keep the dreams of becoming a Cadet or Blue Devil alive if you want. A season or two under your belt will make you more attractive to other drum corps and will help prepare you for the next level. But strange things sometimes happen to members of Division II and III corps. They end up loving their experience. They end up loving the members they toil with throughout the summer. They end up loving the corps they march with. They end up coming back next year. There are many ways to measure success in life and drum corps is no different. Sure, most fans place emphasis on the DCI champion, or the top three or the top five, but not enough to diminish the hard work of other corps. Maybe finalists have a bit more cache when it comes to marketing and public relations, but any of these placement-based classifications are determined on the field, usually from a combination of hard work, talent and programming. They aren't determined in the proverbial trenches -- during the bus rides and the midnight snacks and the sub-zero showers. Drum corps aren't made up of medals and patches and trophies. They're made up of people and experiences and opportunities. All corps share that life in the trenches -- those defining moments of maturity. Not to mention, they have a blast while doing so. To deny yourself a chance at that seems shortsighted. But if you're driven for recognized success, winning scenarios are possible at all levels. It's just that some of them don't make PBS. Did the Little League championship you won as a seventh-grader seem trivial compared to the nationally televised World Series? Of course not. Do the football players on Ohio's Mount Union, which dominates Division III college football, lament the fact that they aren't playing on New Year's Day? Or are the Purple Raiders too busy working to beat teams like the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to care? People find different reasons to do different things. If you want to march drum corps to win a championship, good for you. If you want to march drum corps to better yourself while learning new things about who you are, even better. If you want to march drum corps because you're looking for some laughs, that's fine. In fact, that's perfect. That's what makes the activity unique. People come together from different backgrounds and for different reasons -- all to do the same thing. Don't deny yourself the chance to do something great this summer because you find yourself on the outside looking in after November or December auditions. Don't wait for the activity to come to you -- go to the activity. Search out a corps in your state or find one that's somewhere across the country. Find a group that appeals to your musical taste. If you don't want to give it that much thought, fine. Whose uniform do you like? Whose buses look cool? Who has a good-looking drum major? The point is that you can talk yourself out of marching drum corps after you fail to make the first corps on your list. But when you're painting apartments this summer or watching way too much Dr. Phil, don't bother to regret it. The time is now. Don't let it pass you by. So, who has a corps-related tattoo? If you're sporting a little body art you'd like to share your motivation -- and a photo -- with the rest of the drum corps class, drop me an e-mail. Leaf it to Canada to break the monotony of tour Aging out isn't worth the weight The ABCs of drum corps fans Show concept promises all-out KISS and tell Marco Buscaglia marched in the Cavaliers from 1984-1989 and the Cavalier Cadets from 1978-1983. He currently is an editor with Tribune Media Services in Chicago. Marco can be reached via e-mail at