Drum Corps International
It doesn't get any better than drum corps

It doesn't get any better than drum corps

by Michael Boo

I've heard it expressed that "It doesn't get any better than drum corps," that drum corps leaves one feeling changed for the better. Here are two stories that drive home that point. Matt Nolan contributed the following. I never marched in a drum corps, although I was the drum major for two of Reeths-Puffer High School's Michigan Flight II State Championships in 1997-98. Having managed political campaigns and organizations, and having gotten through undergraduate and most of law school, I think there is nothing that compares to the level of complete dedication and excellence required by drum corps, and I think anyone who loves "The Apprentice" would come to be a fan over time for that reason, among many. No activity in the world requires and teaches as much to a person, as a person, in the world. First, of course, you have to be musically stupendous. Attention to detail is higher than any other major activity that exists...not just technically, but also in regards to musical shaping, flow, continuity and passion. Excellence in imagination and precision are both needed. Secondly, there is the physical demand. I was with a group of aspiring attorneys when one made a disparaging remark about how easy band was. I bet him $20 that he couldn't hold his arms straight out for 15 minutes (let alone hold an actual instrument). He appreciated it a bit more afterward. Add to the complexity of the physical posture some foot movement at lightning speeds, coordination and 15 minutes of sprinting around a field, and you're doing what few athletes can pull off. Third is the mental toughness needed to march in a drum corps. How many professions or activities involve 98 percent practice and 2 percent performance, if that? The ability to get up and do it every day, to fight back when your body says "no" and to do it in the face of the personal finance requirements (most people are shocked when I tell them that marchers pay to participate, rather than making hefty sums). Again, I can't think of anything that compares. Each of these (and many more) demands are by themselves a testament to drum corps; doing them all at the same time is what sets it apart as a truly superior experience. To watch a pitcher throw a baseball at 100 miles-per-hour is impressive, but he's not doing it while he's playing a harmonica with his mouth. Watching drum corps is fascinating for its power and grace, inspiring for its art, and yet the primary satisfaction I get from attending shows and watching DVDs is the motivation. If 18-22 year-olds can do that, how can I complain about making it through a day of sitting in law classes? How can I not ask myself to raise the bar a little higher when I know that even The Cavaliers in 2002 were thinking of dozens of things to fix after scoring a 99.15? I love that DCI was on ESPN2 this past year, and wish the movie theater experience were available in my city this summer and every other theater in the country. The success of groups like Blast! and Stomp proves that there's an audience clamoring for more. There isn't a single person in the world that can't learn from drum corps, while being wildly entertained. Thanks for keeping it coming, and here's to many, many more seasons ahead of soaking up every show within driving distance. Steve Martell shares how he discovered and fell in love with drum corps. I marched my first year with the Greendale Mariners in 1972. How I got there is the best story. I lived in South Milwaukee, Wis. the first 10 years of my life and grew up watching the Fourth of July parades. The Mariners were always my favorite, along with the Mutineers and the Dons. We lived near Lake Michigan, so I got to ride bikes through the park. One day I came across people playing music and marching. I was blown away. It was an instant love! I also couldn't figure out what the girl next door was doing in the back yard with a flag until I saw her in her Mariner uniform. That summer my family was transferred to Evansville, Ind. Drum corps was forgotten for about six years until we transferred back to Greendale. Guess what? Two weeks after we moved, I again heard the Greendale Mariners. I joined that night, much to my parents' dismay. My first year I was awestruck at all the corps I saw, St. Mathias Cadets, Thunderbolts, Oshkosh Warriors, Americanos, St. Pat's Imperials. Then what happened amazes me to this day, seeing The Cavaliers, Troopers, Kingsmen, Argonne Rebels, Santa Clara Vanguard, Blue Stars and of course the Kilties. One of my instructors was John Brazale. He was a very emotional teacher who pushed us hard when he knew we had talent. John also let me watch the winter guard rehearsals. I went to every show in which the guard competed. Later, he taught me flag and rifle, which I fell in love with. I marched with Mariners from 1972 to 1974. The next year changed my life. John Brazale was hired by Phantom Regiment and he took myself, Patty Clark and Mike Dorangrichia to help teach the guard. I had a blast. In 1975 I marched in a couple shows. To wear that uniform was very special. The one show I remember most was DCI Midwest in Whitewater. While I was marching the show, a judge (Scotty Wild) came up behind me and asked me what I was doing out there. Then John told me about a job teaching the Kilties guard. It was very humbling. I taught the Kilties for three years, then went back to Rockford and Phantom Regiment for a year, starting with winter guard. Winning WGI was the best. The summer was the icing on the cake. It was overwhelming to watch John, Marty Hurley and Jim Wren. That was that. Then I went on to sunny California and the Sacramento Freelancers. I taught from 1981-1985. That was the best time for me in drum corps. All the people I met were wonderful. Teaching all the great kids that came through Freelancers was very special. After 1985, that was about it as far as teaching goes. It was the best time of my life. I still have friends that I met 30 years ago. It just doesn't get any better than drum corps!


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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