Drum Corps International
Leaving as brother and sister, returning as best of friends

Leaving as brother and sister, returning as best of friends

by Michael Boo

This is part one of a two-part Fanfare celebrating drum corps as a family experience. Today we'll hear from Carrie Lee, mother of Peter Gissiner and Mandi Gissiner, members of Teal Sound. Next week we'll hear from Peter and Mandi. Here's Carrie's story. Where to start ... Peter came home from school one day talking about a drum corps video he saw in band class and saying he wanted to march a corps. He wanted to join Southwind. Well, when we got online and found Southwind -- how far away it was and how much the dues were -- he didn't like our answer! We did tell him we would search for a corps closer to us and within financial reach, too. We were fortunate to find Teal Sound literally in our back yard of St. Marys, Ga., about 45 minutes from Teal Sound's home of Jacksonville, Fla. Peter has ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, and his first year (2000) was a failure. We had to make him drop out of the corps around April due to his grades in school. We told him school came first and corps second. Luckily, that is Teal's stance as well. It broke our hearts to take it away, but as parents we felt we had to do that. The next year was successful for Peter, both scholastically and with drum corps. This was our first full year with a corps and we were hooked, big time! I loved helping at camps with meals or anything I could do for them. This was the year of Teal's "Symphony and Metallica" show that went on to Division II & III Finals. The kids were amazing and I loved the atmosphere. Today, we hear too much about what is wrong with our kids. We need more press about stories -- such as what we get from DCI -- that are a positive thing in the lives or kids. I have to tell you it is a killer to have your kid(s) on the road and be up waiting for scores to be posted online! It was sheer torture! We would be up until 1 a.m. some nights just to get scores to know how the corps was doing at the competitions. The night the corps came home, Peter was so thrilled with how they had done that he was hooked for life on DCI. I don't think he realized how hooked the rest of the family was as well. The next season (2002) was looming and we talked his sister Mandi into giving it a try. She may say she wanted to go, but as far as my husband and I knew, we had to talk her into it! We told her to go give it a try and stay with it for two or three camps. If she truly hated it, she could quit, but we wanted her to give it an honest try. I am so thankful to the Teal staff for taking this "green" kid who had never even touched a flag, rifle or saber in her life. I knew that she would be safe with the corps on tour (she was 13 when they left), but we still gave Peter the "If anything happens to your sister, don't even bother to come home!" speech! We've always tried to teach our kids that they are brother and sister ... one day they might be the only family each other has and they would need to be there for each other. We've been fortunate to have kids that got along with each other, for the most part. There were rare fights, but they mostly have always been good to each other. Some of that may stem from us being a military family and moving around. It was even more difficult having two kids in the corps. We were fortunate enough to see a few of their shows and it was like watching a tennis match -- going back and forth from one kid to the other, not wanting to miss a thing either of them did. I have no problem admitting that my heart was in my throat, tears were in my eyes and I was immensely proud of both of my kids -- and we still had those late nights watching for scores. As a parent, I cannot even begin to explain how we felt to see how close our kids had grown during this year. Mandi had more respect for her brother now, seeing firsthand what he had done the previous year without her. Peter had more respect for Mandi, now that she had done a year with drum corps and "stuck it out." They left as brother and sister and come home the best of friends. They share their thoughts and dreams with one another and are there to comfort one another when needed. This past tour brought them home to Peter's senior year of high school and Mandi's freshman year. They loved having the opportunity to march on the field together during football season; Peter in the band and Mandi in the color guard. At the end of the football season, the tears were not for the fact that we lost at semifinals for the state championship, but for the fact that it was their last time on the field together with the high school band. Mandi knew that the 2003-2004 school year would be her first time to perform on the field without her brother. He had always been there with her for almost two years. Last year's "ab aeterno" show with Teal was not only a physically demanding show, but mentally grueling as well. It was a dark show [Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" and Holsinger's "Liturgical Dances"] and they poured themselves into their performances. Once again we had the tennis match syndrome at the shows we attended. We were fortunate to see several shows and then be able to go to Orlando for DCI World Championships week. Before shows, Peter has to "get his game face on" and does not want to talk to anyone. Mandi, on the other hand, wants to get her equipment set and find mom and dad in the stands. It was wonderful to see the corps take the field, warm up, and see the two of them find each other for a hug and a "good luck" wish before the show. Division II & III prelims was an amazing show and they knew it coming off the field. Everyone was flying high on adrenaline and mom just couldn't run fast enough to get to her babies. Unfortunately, semifinals brought the season to an end and everyone knew it before the scores were even announced. Plenty of tears flowed from everyone -- the kids in the corps, the staff and the parents. Once again, I couldn't get to them fast enough. My heart was as broken as theirs. As I mentioned, we are a military family. Before we reached Orlando, we knew we had new orders and would be moving in 2004. We did not tell the kids any of this as we felt they needed to "keep their head in the game" and would break the news once they were done competing. We had to give them the opportunity to make the best of the rest of their time with their fellow corps members. Teal was family. We hated to see the season end and always looked forward to see who would return the following year. We enjoyed going to high school band competitions and winter guard shows to see Teal members from other schools in between seasons. At the time, it looked like we would be moving in February of this year, so Teal would be a well-loved memory and everyone with Teal would be missed greatly. Obviously, the kids didn't take this news well. I have to admit the thought of taking the kids away from Teal tore up both my husband and myself. With the knowledge that we would move in February, we contacted the corps they would audition for, Seattle Cascades. We planned to send video auditions and would get them there for their first camp in February. The thought of marching with a Division I corps helped ease the pain of leaving Teal. The military has a tendency to throw a curve at you when you least expect it and they did that to us right before Christmas. We found out we were no longer headed for Whidbey Island, Wash., but to Brunswick, Maine! Plans for the Cascades went down the tubes and we began the search for winter guards and drum corps within reach of Brunswick, considering we would have dues for two. This also brought a new June reporting date for my husband. My husband, Dean, and I clearly saw our only choice was for him to report in June and the kids and I would stay in Georgia until this year's DCI season is over, otherwise the kids would lose a season marching. This activity means too much to our family for them to have to miss a year marching. So, this will be their final year with Teal Sound. I don't believe the kids think much about that at this point -- maybe once they get done with Championships they will. For me, each camp is bittersweet. I love the kids, the camaraderie, and everything about Teal and yet I am upset at the thought of this being our last year with this wonderful family. I freely admit I've shed tears over the thought of leaving them. I know that whatever corps the kids march with next year will be family too, but Teal Sound will always have a special place in my heart. Who knows, after this set of orders, we may end up back here and Mandi will get to march with Teal again. By the time we get new orders, Peter will have aged out. Maybe he can join Teal's staff to be on the road with Mandi still if that comes to pass. There's still that fear of "what if the new corps isn't as close as Teal -- will the kids have the same camaraderie, will this corps need my help as much?" And so on. We've tried to teach them responsibility, compassion and so many other things. We feel drum corps helped to drive some of these lessons home. They hear these things from mom and dad and I think to have them come from another source helps to nail it down. They are more mature than most kids their ages, more self-assured and confident, and have a type of camaraderie with a group of people that many will never know. All of our lives are richer for the experience of drum corps. It's something you can't explain or describe to someone who has never been to a drum corps show or been a member of a corps. It's like trying to describe a color to a blind person, or the sound of a bird to a deaf person. You just have to experience drum corps to understand it. As much as my husband and I love this activity and support our kids in this, we will never truly know the drum corps experience as our kids do. We are "outsiders" in this community, since we never had the privilege of marching. That still does not dull our love and respect for this community. We will be going to shows long after our kids have aged out and I hope to one day see my grandchildren in drum corps. If I'm very fortunate I may even see a great-grandkid or two in 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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