As the holidays gear up and the year slides to a close, many peoples' thoughts turn reflective. There's something about the holidays -- perhaps it's familial renewal, perhaps it's the gift-giving, perhaps, it's just cold weather and eggnog -- that makes people more thoughtful and thankful. And drum corps members are no different. Earlier this month we solicited reflections from current marching members. They were given these instructions: "How has drum corps affected the way you live? Maybe your drum corps experiences have impacted your life in and out of the classroom. Maybe they have helped you become a better student, a better person, a better friend or a better musician. Maybe you initially had a negative experience but were able to push through and turn that into a positive."

Spreading holiday cheer: The DCI Honor Corps at the Magic Kingdom
Think of this article as a "giving thanks" kind of prayer to the drum corps community. And happy holidays from the DCI staff!
From the 50 all the way to Kenya Only two weeks after performing in the Blue Stars color guard at my fourth DCI World Championships, I packed my things once again for a long trip away from home. This time I would be going a little farther away and I would not enjoy the comfort and company of my Blue Stars family. I left to spend the semester studying and working in Kenya. As I absorb one life-changing experience after another in Kenya, I find my drum corps skills coming in handy in every challenging situation, and I have discovered again and again the strength of the Blue Star in me. Drum corps was with me on the overnight bus from Nairobi, Kenya to Jinja, Uganda, and I found myself right at home. It was dark and crowded and hot, and we spent two hours broken down on the side of the road. Though I was halfway around the world, moments like this are exactly what four years in a Division II & III drum corps had prepared me for. The ride was a little bumpier than I am used to, but the experience was much the same. As the woman behind me spoke loudly late into the night, I longed for my own bus and my power to declare "Quiet time," but instead I used the same meditation techniques I needed to get to sleep in a gym where the lights won't turn off or where there are kids making noise nearby. The sun rose while we crossed the border into Uganda, and three hours later another student realized that we were several miles past where our transportation was waiting for us. The bus stopped but would not go back, so we were left on the side of the road outside of Jinja with all of our luggage, no Ugandan money, and only a vague idea where we were trying to go. Luckily, I was armed with my drum corps skills of level-headedness and leadership during times of adversity, and we found our way to our destination. Drum Corps was with me on a camping trip to Maasai Mara National Park when I returned to my tent to find it infested with ants. After spending only a few minutes inside, the ants were all over me and in my clothes. At this point I realized that the ants in this part of the world bite, and that my only course of action was to strip down to my underwear by the campfire in front of all my friends, two strangers and one camp site employee who didn't understand a word of English but found my predicament quite amusing. Though I had to abandon my modesty and was being bitten everywhere by tiny red ants, I could not wipe the smile off my face. The seasoned drum corps veteran in me knows that no amount of discomfort is suffered in vain if it makes a good story. Drum corps was with me when I went out into the Maasai community with a local community health worker on his daily rounds. After hours of climbing over the hills at the edge of the East African rift valley, I was winded and sweating, but not complaining. My escort, Noah, sweet but overly concerned, asked, "Are you OK?" "Of course I am fine, a little walking never killed anybody." "Do you need to stop and rest?" "Not if you don't." As long as the drum major can move her hands, I can move my feet, right? This is not so different. "Aren't you hot?" "I've been hotter," in Alton, Ill., in June 2005. "Aren't you tired?" "I've been more tired," hundreds of times. Noah was impressed with my attitude. But I am no stranger to a little work, a little heat, or a little physical discomfort. I am not an average American; because drum corps is with me, I am a little stronger. Julianne L. Stennes
Blue Stars
Guard An enlightening experience Drum Corps has truly been an enlightening experience for me. I have made lifelong friends -- some older, some younger. I've met people that I will know for the rest of my life. Drum Corps has also affected the way I live. It's quite amusing how I can sleep anywhere know that I have slept on gymnasium floors and buses for two back to back summers. Drum Corps has made me a better friend, a much better musician, and also a better person. It's done this by showing me what 100 or so more people can accomplish. It truly has enlightened me as a musician. Without joining drum corps, I'm not too sure what I would be doing with my musical ability. I will cherish the memories forever, and I am truly thankful to all the people that have educated me and given me all the opportunities that I have been given." Wes Anderson
Arizona Academy
Snare Separated by miles, joined by friendship "When asked to write about how drum corps has changed me, I went straight to my best friend, Tiare. She and I met in the Blue Knights in 2004 and we've been best friends ever since. We're inseparable except for one key thing -- we live more than 1,000 miles away from each other. "You see, Tiare and I march together every summer, but for seven months out of every year we must return to our normal lives. Tiare lives in California and I live in Colorado, and the distance between us tears us apart almost every year. Yet every summer we grow closer and closer. Tiare once told me "Jen, you're the bestest friend I could ever have." That one fact brought me to tears. "I believe drum corps turns you into a better friend. Every summer, more than 5,000 embark on such a journey for only three months. Yet you come out of it every year with friends you will never forget. And believe me, I'll never forget Tiare." Jen Knight
Blue Knights
Guard You've got to love it Marching drum corps for two years was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I saw a world that I never knew existed. While marching drum corps, I realized that nothing is impossible. When I feel I can't make it, drum corps taught me that I can just by pushing a little harder. I did movements with my instrument that I thought I could never do in the beginning of the season. But it all came through at the end of the season. Going away for the summer and doing drum corps allowed me to clear my mind and get a break from the stress and madness in the world. Now that I have aged out, I look back at drum corps and I feel that I have become stronger physically and wiser mentally. Drum corps -- you've got to love it! Karuba Hilliard
Carolina Crown