Drum Corps International
How parents see drum corps

How parents see drum corps

by Drum Corps International

This week's Fanfare column is about proud parents who have a view of the activity well worth sharing with others. Gary Rotenbury sent in the first submission below. As a little background, I marched junior corps in 1975 (contra) and senior corps in 1983/1984 (guard). Throughout and since that time I have marched competitive marching band, taught several high school guards and followed DCI tirelessly -- and am now in my fourth year as a band parent. When I marched, my dream was to be part of a guard, and senior corps fulfilled that dream for me. I do know the thrill of performing in front of thousands of people, and hearing them cheer for me (us). But above all that, my greatest thrill was just being on the field and part of the drum corps experience. I ALWAYS had energy for one more run-through at the end of a day's practice. It was what I lived for and I couldn't think of anything in life that gave me greater pleasure, until: These last two summers, my daughter marched her first two years of drum corps in the Lehigh Valley Knights guard. I will admit, I didn't know very much about the Knights organization, and I will also admit that I was not a big fan of Division II & III corps -- but I did love the activity. Well, I learned a few things these past two summers. I learned that the Knights organization, and especially the guard instructors and other guard members, were extremely good to my daughter. They worked her hard, but supported her like nothing else. I learned that Division III corps really are good and practice just as hard as the Division I corps I had come to love and admire over the years. I gained a new respect and appreciation for these organizations. But mostly, I learned that there is a greater pleasure than the thrill I felt marching on the field -- it was the thrill of watching my child march on the field. Those who are currently marching or have marched before, you know there are really no words to express the joy or the exhilaration you feel while on the field. Well, those words don't exist for parents either. We followed the Knights to Orlando and Denver and watched our daughter perform her heart out. As much as I enjoyed the Disney attractions and the great Rocky Mountains, I can't begin to express the joy and pride I felt watching my daughter perform. I know my wife cried practically every performance. It was all I could think about -- and even now when I look back on the pictures we have, I get a warm, prideful, loving feeling at the joy I felt watching her perform. And I admit, sometimes my eyes also do get a little moist. With LVK going inactive, my daughter has decided to march guard with Jersey Surf this summer. Who knows? Maybe my son will decide to march someday, too. My daughter was never one to have mom and dad give her hugs and words of pride and encouragement in front of her friends, so bottom line: For all those members of corps who find themselves speechless at the thrill of performing, know in your hearts that us parents are equally speechless at the thrill of watching you perform -- and know that we love you and your drum corps life. Carrie Lee is the mother of Peter and Mandi Gissiner, and contributed the Fanfare article (May 21, 2004) about the brother and sister who left as siblings and returned from drum corps as best friends. The following is something she wrote to explain drum corps to her friends and others in her local community. Among the usual things that come with spring is drum and bugle corps season. DCI has a very loyal following. Everyone has their favorite corps: Cavaliers, Blue Devils, Madison Scouts, Crossmen and Phantom Regiment; just to name a few of the "big corps." An up and coming local drum corps is Teal Sound. Teal Sound is comprised of kids from all over. The members come from as far away as Northport, Fla., Gulfport, Miss., and even Ohio. Kids from Brunswick, St. Mary's, Thomaston and other Georgia towns are members as well. Traveling from so far away can be a challenge when you don't drive yet, making many rely on parents and other means to get to camps. These kids are more dedicated than your "average Joe." Practice weekends are like a musical boot camp. Most practice days start at 6:30 or 7 a.m. and do not end until 11:00 p.m. They practice their music and drill, stopping only for meals and water breaks. When they quit at night they have an hour to shower, grab a snack and relax a bit before it's lights out at midnight. The next morning they get up and do it all over again. The season starts with one practice weekend a month in November and then grows to every weekend by June. Then you "move in" and practice every day until you hit the road for tour season. Meals are usually eaten outside and cooked on grills and propane stoves. The large corps are lucky enough to have "chow wagons," though. That is a separate trailer set up strictly as a kitchen. When the lights go out these kids are usually so tired from practice that they do not care that sleep comes in a sleeping bag on a gym floor. Some bring air mattresses, but if you can't find a power outlet to blow it up, it isn't of much use. They shower in the locker rooms, hoping that this time it will be a hot shower instead of the cold one at the last camp or competition site. They live the life of a nomad, living out of a suitcase and never having a place to call home, except their bus seat. Drum corps kids are driven -- driven to perform their craft at a much higher level of excellence than even many college marching bands. There are those who consider this to be a professional level of performance. It is easy to believe this when you watch some of the shows at the World Championships. You have to be driven to practice and perform, even when the summer temperatures in some cities reaches over 100 degrees. The physical and emotional intensity of these shows is amazing. It is awe inspiring to see the heart, soul, sweat and tears that go into these shows. They pour themselves into the roles they assume in these performances. Shows run the gamut from light and airy to dark and brooding. You are transported to other places and times, you are enthralled and totally absorbed by what is unfolding on the field before you. It has been said that performing these shows is like running a marathon in 10 minutes. When these artists can keep the integrity of the music while moving across the field at 190 beats per minute, the comparison sounds fair. The shows are not just music, but a feast for the eyes as well. The drill work of the corps morphing from one moment to the next in simple to complex formations is a sight to behold. Drill work is so fast and they move so close to one another you fear they will collide, but then they rush past one another to the next maneuver. The color guard with their flags, sabres and rifles brings even more visuals to take in, leaving you almost dizzy. You'll see the field explode in a blaze of silk as the flags are tossed high -- to be whipped around in complex combinations with the crescendo of the music -- and then they change the emotion of a beautiful ballad with lyrical movements, leaving the spectators breathless. One of the most emotional aspects of the DCI World Championships week is the ageout ceremony. Here are young adults who have lived and breathed DCI for many years, told that they are too old to continue this activity at the "ripe old age" of 21. They have bled on the field of competition, given up other opportunities to continue with this activity and given their all for their "corps family." For this is a family and the ties and bonds it creates run deep. Many of these performers are in tears, leaving the field for the last time ever. It's both a blessing and a curse to know it will be your last performance -- a blessing so you may relish every second and revel in the moment, a curse because you know you will never again feel the thrill of standing in the tunnel waiting to take the field, to bask in the response from the audience and to know that you will not see your "second family" again in a few months when practice begins yet again for another season. For some the way to continue with this activity is to become a staff member with their old corps or another one. Some even decide to start their own corps. This was the case with Teal Sound. Director Michael Butler had a dream of bringing drum corps to our area. It took some time before his dream came to life, but now it is growing and bringing this fantastic opportunity to new generations of members. In 1999 Butler did not even think the corps would tour, instead expecting to do a few exhibition shows to get things rolling. Teal Sound, a small Division II corps (there are three divisions in DCI, based on size and touring considerations), finished the season in 9th place out of 12 with their "Go Daddy-O" show. This was amazing for a first year corps. Each season seems to come and go in a blur of rehearsals, practice camps and competitions. One constant is the fans waiting like children on Christmas Eve to see what awaits them from their favorite corps. No matter where the corps may finish, their fans anxiously await the next season, the next show, and the next DCI World Championship week.
 
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.