Drum Corps International
It's a drum corps thing

It's a drum corps thing

by Drum Corps International

Dawn Lee, contributor of the May 25 Fanfare article, "Why we let her march," submitted the following. Drum corps is a family. I'd heard that before and thought little more of it than, "Oh, that's really nice." I knew a few music educators who had marched in drum corps and they still talked about their experience (back in the day), and I recalled private lesson teachers or band directors who were former members of the Madison Scouts and referred to their "brothers." Most of the visual staff members in my daughter's high school marching band came from Phantom Regiment, (and so did three of the directors), and I'd seen their pride and love for their corps. I knew it was a great activity. I knew it built character and I knew that "those drum corps people" were a special breed, but I didn't get the "family" connection until she actually participated. It took a season on the tour to appreciate that sweat, heart and perseverance could make as true of a connection as shared blood and DNA. I've been privileged to work with a few different corps during my daughter's drum corps career and they have each brought their distinctive flavors to the table (or curbside) that makes up the fabulous buffet that we call drum corps. We whet our appetite the year my daughter marched in an all-age Drum Corps Associates (DCA) corps. It allowed her to wet her feet and get some corps experience without the full-blown tour experience. She wasn't quite ready to tour for the full summer and it was a good introduction for her. She joined Frontier, the local DCA corps in Dallas, spending rehearsal weekends lending her talent and chops to a group that ranged in age from 15 to 50. They accepted her and took her in even though she was one of a handful of teens in the group. Frontier can now proudly claim their "kids" have gone on to audition for many of Drum Corps International Division I corps. This year Frontier has alumni marching in the Madison Scouts and the Blue Stars—not bad for a group that fielded around 45 members in its inaugural year. I can guarantee that those two kids have a DCA corps full of "uncles," "aunts," fans and supporters. They followed her through her first season through forum posts, phone calls, supportive e-mails and some raucous shout-outs in local performances. When I was worried, advice and concern was only a forum post away. When a score thrilled me, I had an entire group to celebrate with me. I was part of their family and they understood and loved the activity. I sat with a group of them during finals week last year and when the Madison Scouts Alumni Corps took the field at the World Championship Semifinals last year, I stood and cheered loudly for my family and friends. One of my fondest memories of the Denton, Texas show last year came before my daughter's corps (Capital Regiment) took the field last season. There was a booming cry from a certain seating section letting Meg know "Bob Barker IS alive." Yeah, it's a drum corps thing. Many in the audience laughed, though some were confused. No matter; she heard the message in the declaration as to Mr. Barker's health. It said "We love you. We're proud of you. We want you to know we're here and we're behind you." The 2006 season brought another beautiful example of that "drum corps thing." We were in Rockford, Illinois and I was on the food truck in mid-summer and it was hot. I was sweaty, tired, and stumbling my way through as a rookie volunteer. One of our members was celebrating a birthday that evening and although his family wasn't local, they wanted the day to be special. They made contact with a Phantom Regiment family in Rockford and arranged for them to pick up two full sheet cakes—enough to feed the entire corps—and deliver them to our food truck. I stashed them on the truck and marveled at the kindness to one of the other staffers. He just grinned and explained it succinctly, "Drum corps is a family." I remember that night for many reasons, but what shines most brightly is the act of kindness of a stranger, who thousands of miles away, went out of their way and made sure a kid had his birthday cake. I doubt that sort of compassion it is common in most other activities. I understand it now —it's a drum corps thing. Other examples come at the oddest of times. Last March my daughter and I were taking a spring break trip to New York City and actually managed to score "Late Night with David Letterman" tickets. We'd met Al Chez, (Dave's trumpet player) at a weekend camp before and decided to wait outside the studio door to say hello after the filming. We talked for a few minutes and Al was gracious and kind and suddenly, with a Cheshire cat grin, he said "Would you like to sit at Dave's desk?" He then took us in through the stage door and we stood on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theater with him. He gave us the backstage tour and we took pictures at Dave's desk, talked about Jackie Gleason's history in the theater and even had cookies in the green room. We thanked Al profusely and his only remark was, "Drum corps is a family. I'm glad I could do it." That trip, already full of memorable moments, became magical. And this year, our family is growing. I'm home now after spending a week at spring training and working the food truck. We're with a different corps (Blue Stars) this year and they have welcomed us warmly and with open arms. I have set up peanut butter tables, mixed coolers of Gatorade with a whisk as long as my arm, joked while peeling mountains of potatoes, and washed dishes until my fingers were like prunes, alongside some remarkable women. The love those volunteers feel for our kids inspires me. One of the women on the truck had a son who had already aged out. She came and volunteered because she still loved this corps. I'm not sure that my "non-corps" friends would understand that mentality but hey, it's a drum corps thing. I get it now. And this Sunday, I'll be meeting up with a group of local "corps parents." We're getting together for a barbecue hosted by an alumni/current member's parents. We'll meet new friends and reacquaint ourselves with old ones, catch up and share stories. He and his wife will open their home and we'll share a meal, but more importantly, we'll share our experience. There will be rookie parents there, veteran parents there, alumni members there, age-out parents there. Along with the potluck dishes we bring to the table, we'll bring our experiences. We all have something to bring to the table, bet it our love for our kids or love for the activity. We'll share experiences and advice, console rookie parents who are dealing with those calls from homesick members home and talk them through it. We'll share our anticipation and excitement about the first competition of the season. Yes, we'll gather, much like my own family does during the holidays, and share our own simple gifts—support, camaraderie, and a love for the drum corps activity. Our family will grow. The bond is strong and I'm sure you realize why—It's a drum corps thing.

Editorial assistance by Michael Boo. Fanfare archives