The following was submitted by Nancy L. Bender, a resident of the St. Louis area. I grew up in a military family, which meant we moved around a LOT. In spite of the fact that I spent the last three years of my dad's military career living in close vicinity of the Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguard, I had never heard of drum and bugle corps. I was always interested in music and wanted to play an instrument, but the opportunity never presented itself. So, I graduated from college and ended up working for the government, when, out of the blue, the music bug bit again. Maybe it was the fact that I was a year away from turning (gasp) 30! Whatever it was, I ended up with an old cornet and started taking lessons. After five years of lessons, I quit my job and went back to school to study music full-time. It was probably one of the scariest things I've ever done and it wasn't always easy, but I don't regret a minute! After five years I ended up with a degree in music composition, while still playing trumpet in many groups in St. Louis. It was while I was playing in a concert band that I met Van Williams. This band did concerts twice a week in the summer, on Sunday and Monday nights. Often, Van would tell me at the rehearsal that he wouldn't be there for the Sunday night concert. He would be "out of town." I didn't think much about it until he started missing almost every Sunday. I finally asked him if he was traveling on business. He said "no," he was going to drum corps shows! Well, I must have looked at him as if he were from outer space. "You mean you drive up to eight hours one way, spend money on gas, tickets, and a motel room every weekend to watch a drum corps show?!" I just shook my head. It takes all kinds, I guess. The next year, 1992, Van called me and said that he had an extra ticket to the drum corps show in Alton, Ill. Would I like to go? I figured I would go see what this drum corps thing was all about, so I said "Yes." In preparation for this event, Van came over and brought a number of DCI finals videos for me to watch. I was astounded. He kept telling me it was even better in person. Finally the day came and we headed over to Alton. We walked through all the souvenir booths and finally found our seats on the 50-yard line. The first corps on the field was the Sacramento Freelancers. My jaw hit my lap and stayed there! Van kept telling me it was going to get better. I couldn't imagine how, but it did! The two corps that stuck in my mind were Star of Indiana (doing their "patriotic" show) and the Blue Devils playing "When A Man Loves A Women." I truly thought I had died and gone to heaven. My life had been changed forever, but little did I know what was to lie ahead. For the next ten years I accompanied Van and several others from the St. Louis area to drum corps shows in many cities. I even conquered my fear of flying to go to Ypsilanti, Mich., for the DCI Preview of Champions. I loved the activity and had such a respect for what those "kids" went through to provide me with 10-11 minutes of sheer excitement. Of course, as people often do, I thought about yet another opportunity I has missed out on during my youth. I would have LOVED to have marched in a drum corps! In spite of that, I continued to meet some pretty amazing people through the activity: Randy Skaggs (who marched Black Knights in the 1970s), Jim Chappell (Bluecoats), Steve Vickers (Sky Ryders and the owner of Drum Corps World) and finally Dave Scott (Black Knights in the 1960s). Little did I know where all of this was leading! Fast-forward to the fall of 2001. I had talked Dave Scott into joining the symphonic band in which I played. He was all excited about some "reunion" corps that was getting together in Chicago, and how he was going to go up for the first camp in September. I remember thinking, "Yeah, yeah, whatever." I had never heard of the corps and really didn't understand what the excitement was all about. Well, he came back from that first camp all excited and told me, "They need more horns." My ears perked up a little. But very quickly, common sense took over. Aw, come on! I've never marched a step in my life, I have two knees that need to be replaced, I'm too old, it's out of the question! He asked me to "think about it," asking me to come to the Royal Airs Reunion Corps October camp and see what it's all about. Well, I thought of nothing else for the rest of the week! I don't even remember how rehearsal went that night! Imagine it! Finding out about drum corps in 1992, consoling myself that I would never know what it's like to do that, then being offered the opportunity to actually have a dream come true at the age of 46! What would YOU do? I spent that week thinking of almost nothing else except how incredible it would be to march in a drum corps. I had plenty of doubts, though. My knees were really in bad shape, I had never marched and played at the same time, and from what I had learned of the history of this corps, the horn line was all male. I sent Dave an e-mail in mid-week asking him to find out from somebody "in charge" if it would be OK to have a female horn player. He got back to me the next day and I also received an e-mail from one of the "original" members in Chicago inviting me to camp. I figured I might as well go. Heck, it's just one weekend. I'll give it a try, but I wasn't positive that I would be capable and also wasn't sure I would fit in. October camp arrived. I met Dave at his house at 6 a.m. (I had to get up by 4:30 to get to his house by then). We started the long drive to the Chicago area. Camp started at 11 and we arrived by 10:30. All the guys were standing around talking and playing. I had never touched a G bugle, but figured that would probably be the easiest thing I did all weekend. We went into the band room and started warmups. I got the hang of the bugle pretty quickly and was really getting excited about being in the middle of that wonderful brass sound that I had only heard from the stands in a stadium. The second block was outside doing drill. This is the part I was dreading. How come I can't march a straight line? I seemed to drift one way or the other! After only 15 minutes my knees were killing me, but I refused to sit down. Thankfully, we only practiced for about 35-40 minutes. Then it was back to sectionals, then full ensemble in the gym before dinner. WOW! What a sound! More guys talked to me during dinner and all were very gracious. After dinner we went back to sectionals, then finished up in the gym with full ensemble at 9:30 p.m.! I didn't even realize how tired I was until I got to my motel room. It was then that I also realized how much pain I was in! I iced down my knees, took a hot shower and tried to sleep, but I was so wired from the day's activities that it took me till nearly 2 a.m. to fall asleep! The next morning, I had to coax my body out of bed to meet the other guys for breakfast. Then back to the campsite. More playing, a LOT of standing! I met our drill instructor about 1 p.m. He looked like a football coach and I remember thinking that this was probably as far as I would ever go in my drum corps career. We practiced standing at attention, parade rest, horns up, horns down, and mark time. This continued for about 45 minutes. Then he wanted us out on the field for some marching. At this point I gave in and found a chair. The corps only marched for another 15 minutes, then had a short break before forming an arc on the field to play through the music. Man, my knees hurt, my back hurt, my arms hurt, but I couldn't wait to start playing in the arc, just like I had watched countless junior corps do in the last 10 years! It was awesome playing through our music! When we were through we cleaned up and I literally dragged myself to the car. I can't ever remember being this tired or this excited! I had decided that I would do whatever it took to be a marching member of the Royal Airs! I went home, called my orthopedist and started receiving regular cortisone injections so that I could march. I had always read accounts on about what it's like to "do" drum corps. Up until now, I could only imagine what it was really like. Now I was living it! I eagerly searched the web site for any and all postings from members of the junior corps, comparing their experiences with mine. The most remarkable year in my life was 2002. We did concerts, shows, and parades. We practiced from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. It was often hard, but it was always rewarding. You can't imagine the thrill we got, marching out onto the field after a full day of practice in the sun, bodies and minds tired. Then we turned around in the end zone, faced the junior corps, and played our warm-up chords. As soon as we started playing, the junior corps would start jumping up and down and waiving their arms and exhorting us to play louder! What a rush! This always gave us the extra bit of energy we needed to do our show! It was so cool to start seeing familiar faces in the junior corps as the summer progressed, finally getting to know some of these young adults who gave up their entire summer to sleep on a bus or gym floor and practice every day in the hot sun or pouring rain, just to bring the audience to their feet every night. These are special people, indeed! As difficult as the summer was, I couldn't imagine doing it all summer, every day. We only marched and practiced on weekends! And I always had a nice comfortable bed to sleep in each night. Yes, 2002 was an incredible year, a year in which I went from being a "fan" to being a "member." I stand on the field in front of thousands of people and pour my heart into my music and drill, knowing what it's like to be in the stands and now knowing what it's like to be on the field! Here's what's even more incredible, and perhaps an example of coming full-circle. The first corps I ever saw in competition was the 1992 Sacramento Freelancers, whose horn instructor was John Zimny. Ten years later I'm playing with the Royal Airs, standing in an arc under some trees, being instructed by John Zimny! My dream didn't end in 2002. The Royal Airs continue to perform, bringing back memories of the "old-style" drum corps and allowing us to see how the activity has evolved. I have continued to march with the Royal Airs from 2002-2004 and I am now going to camps to prepare for 2005! A little older, a little grayer, but still loving every minute! I guess it is possible to live a dream! May we all keep the dream alive! Nancy L. Bender
Royal Airs 2002-2005
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.