Drum Corps International
Heart is more important than winning

Heart is more important than winning

by Michael Boo

The following is a tribute by Rich Kleinman to his sister, Sandi, whose birthday is March 28th. The place: Franklin Field, Philadelphia, Pa. The date: Aug. 21, 1976. The event: The DCI World Championships. The scene: Twelve of the world's finest drum corps spanned across the field during finale in preparation for the announcement of scores. Two lives bound by blood stood in anticipation and waited to find out what would transpire that August evening. 1976 was a special year 1976 was a year that some say "put Concord, Calif., on the map." It was a special year for the Blue Devils as a whole, and one that was a culmination of a dream that many of its founders had envisioned. The 1976 corps included many members that had been in the organization since the days when the unit was a drum and bell corps, members that matured as the years went by. But the corps also included a collection of people that "migrated" to Concord from all over the United States and Canada. For me, it was a dream that I could have never fathomed before. As we stood in retreat formation, so many things were going through my mind, but mostly, did we perform well enough to win? After all, Santa Clara Vanguard had the heart and will of a champion, and the Madison Scouts had made a late season surge to defend their own championship from the previous year. As the scores were announced, the tension mounted and the blood, sweat and tears flowed. With every announcement of placements, I could not help but hear in my own mind, "The Blue Devils." Fortunately, as the first ten placements were announced, I had not heard that yet. Then the moment of truth came: Announcer: "In second place ... with a score of nine-zero point seven-zero ... the ... " Time stood still. Who knows what type of life's lessons can be learned from drum corps? In the ten years I spent in drum corps, one year in particular will always stand out in my heart and soul. That was the year of 1976, as it taught me the meaning of "family" as I had never experienced it before. Flashback to "the beginning" Back in the late 1960s, I was a young boy trying to deal with the trials and tribulations that life brings on. Sandi, my sister, had joined the Blue Angels drum and bell corps from San Lorenzo, Calif. My family would always travel to see the corps perform in parades and field shows, and it was always a time that gained my curiosity and wonder. In a short duration of time, I followed my curiosity headfirst and attended rehearsals. I watched in wonder as the tenor players banged out every note, but I never could muster up enough confidence to try out for the corps. For three years, I continued to watch and enjoy. It was soon after that I started to play along with the sounds of the 1971 Western corps, and particularly the Santa Clara Vanguard. I knew then that I would do anything I could to become a part of the Blue Angels, and proudly bang out those same notes. Playing baseball, football, basketball, etc., with my friends became secondary to me. Later on in 1971 I finally got the courage to ask my sister if she could get me a tryout with the Blue Angels, but before I could showcase what I had to offer, she was advised that I was not good enough to become a member of the drum line. I know she was quite disappointed and hurt that she had to break the news to me, and it hit me very hard to know my "dream" would not come to fruition. That's cool, no worries - *winks.* 1971 came and went, Sis had informed me that she and a few others were going to tryout for the Royalaires drum and bugle corps of San Leandro, Calif. The Royalaires were part of the Royal Family, which consisted of the Red Knights drum and bell corps, and majorettes, which were archrivals of the Blue Angels (*snickers*). She asked me if I wanted to try out as well, and I emphatically said, "Yes!" Sis tried out, and was accepted to be a member of the color guard. I gave it my best shot, and was accepted to be a member of the drum line. The dream had finally come true! She and I spent two seasons with the Royalaires until after the 1973 season, when we merged with the Stockton Commodores to become the Royal Commodores. It was 1974 that gave me my first taste of "big time drum corps," and it was a high that I had never experienced in my life. Unfortunately, the merger only lasted one year, and left her and I without a corps to march in. Then came the turning point in our drum corps lives -- 1975. Sis had always adored the Vanguard, as did I, but by then, I had developed an admiration for the Blue Devils' jazz sound. I had admired the Devils from afar since 1973, but the mention of "Blue Devils" around the Royal Family was not accepted too kindly, as they were considered archrivals as well. So with that, I went to Concord, and she to Santa Clara. We both tried out for and made our respective sections. SCV had just come off a DCI Championship year, and the Devils had just made a jump from 24th in 1973 to ninth in 1974. I always liked the underdog. Then the fun began, she with her very conservative Vanguard, and me with the swashbuckling Blue Devils. Drum corps from that point on was an interesting topic in our house, but mom and dad always stayed neutral, and did what most parents would do in that case ... cheer for both sides. They supported both corps equally, and were very proud of both us. In 1975, SCV ended up in second, and us in third (we had beaten SCV quite a few times), so no "blood" had been spilled ... yet. Fast forward Then came 1976, the year that gave me so much joy, yet so much sorrow. For those of you who don't know, the 1976 Blue Devils dominated DCI in a way that no other had ever done, as we swept all captions and won by two full points! One thing I will remember most about 1976 was the announcer in Philly. "In second place, with a score of nine zero, point seven zero (pause that seemed to take an eternity) ... the Madison Scouts!" The world stopped for me -- and I'm sure the rest of us in the corps -- for a few moments. We all jumped, hugged, kissed, threw our shakos in the air, and ran around like little kids. Pure pandemonium had broken out. I can vividly remember the euphoria that was going through my body at that moment. Not only had my dream of being a part of "big-time" drum corps been realized: More than that, I was a champion, and at 17 years old! The pandemonium continued for a few minutes, I was blinded by the excitement that I felt for myself, and all the "brothers and sisters" that I had worked so hard with that season. That particular retreat at finals, we were staged between the Scouts and SCV. At a time when I thought nothing could change what I was feeling, something did. As I made my way around the corps to congratulate my co-members, I looked towards the Vanguard, and what I saw made the title seem meaningless. Flashback My sister had been in drum corps since 1967. She was my hero for twirling her baton while the drummers drummed and the bell players played. I loved watching them. She had brought me to the activity that really gave me some direction and much joy in my young life. She tried desperately to get me into the Blue Angels. She brought me along to join the Royalaires. She looked out for her little brother. Flash forward What I witnessed that night in Philadelphia still chokes me up to this day. I saw my sister, standing at attention in the proud Vanguard tradition, her knees buckling, overcome with emotion, trying to keep from breaking down, heartbroken and exhausted. But she dug deep inside and showed the pride that she had taught me. In the span of two or three minutes, time stood still for me again. Everything that happened in 1976, the hard work, the sweat, the thousands of hours of practice, the travel, meant absolutely nothing to me. The only thing I could focus on was my sister, and the pain that she had to be feeling that night. After the years of marching she had experienced -- and was gracious enough to let her little brother tag along -- it was I who had just gone to the pinnacle of drum corps. I felt like someone had just ripped my heart out. It was not allowed to break the SCV ranks, especially at World Championships, or break any corps rank in general. I felt so helpless, this was not a casual acquaintance that I was looking at in pain -- this was my own flesh and blood, my sister. If I could have changed uniforms with her at that moment, I would have. After all, she deserved it more than I did. I wanted so bad to go over to her and hug her, tell her that they had given it all they could, that I loved her for what she had given me the opportunity to accomplish in drum corps. But I couldn't. Retreat had ended, SCV left the field, and my sis and I didn't see each other until we came home to California. Her and I never talked about it until recently. Sis retired from drum corps after the 1977 season, but I know in my heart of hearts, that she had as much joy as I did with each championship until I aged out. I know that she enjoyed traveling with my father and mother every summer to DCI, so in a sense, she was part of each one. Although she loved her Vanguard, she also had pride in seeing her little brother's corps have as much success as we did. I learned something that night in Philadelphia, that heart was more important than winning, that giving was more important than receiving. My sister gave so many things to me in life, and in drum corps, including the DCI Championship in 1976. So I will take this opportunity to say: Thank you, Sis, for on the night of Aug. 21, 1976 -- it was you who was the champion on the field. Fanfare archives Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition.
   
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.

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