Being serious all the time is boring. There's just no way around it. A few minutes after I wrote my last article, I was sitting around thinking about the beginning of the 2006 season, and I just imagined myself at camp droning about the importance of education and all that dreary and important stuff, and thought, "Man, that's not me at all."
On the other hand, being part of an excellent performing ensemble is decidedly not boring. Every "class clown" eventually has some sort of identity crisis: How do you be a goofball without negatively affecting the work of the ensemble? With three years of experience under my belt, and inspired by two of the greatest goofballs ever to grace the drum corps field (I'm looking at you, Ned Johnson and Neal Burns), I have assembled the ultimate (at least, the best ever to be thought of off the top of my head) list of dos and don'ts for aspiring drum corps goofballs.
DO: Be nails on the field. This is the number one rule! Don't even think about cracking jokes, goofing off or commencing with shenanigans if you are struggling on the field. Whatever lighthearted antics you want to inflict upon the drum corps when the time is right, make sure it is matched by a fiery intensity when it is time to get things done. The more people respect your work ethic, the more they will appreciate your tomfoolery.
DON'T: Break the rules. Don't crack jokes to your neighbors while the director is having a meeting, but do crack a joke if you are called on to speak up during said meeting. Don't disrespect the uniform, no matter how silly or arbitrary the rules may seem to you at first. Don't break rehearsal etiquette, and don't do anything that would damage corps property.
DO: Wear outlandish items to rehearsal. Sombreros and oversized foam cowboy hats are a good jumping-off point, but personally I prefer the rehearsal necktie, with a crazy design and matched with someone else if possible. Another legendary item is the Batman costume as worn by Ned this past year. Be creative (and take it off when your instructors tell you to)!
DON'T: Make fun of your fellow members, or play mean practical jokes. People have enough to worry about on tour without having to fend off jabs or find things hidden by their fellow members. The best target for jokes is obviously yourself. Honestly I think being able to make fun of myself helped me as a section leader this year, helping remind everyone that I still saw myself as a member just the same as everyone else even though I had leadership responsibilities.
DO: Have a running gag. Cheap laughs are for some reason especially valuable on tour when there is so little time for relaxing. Ned, euph player and consummate lovable nerd, would don a Batman costume and pop out of the most unsuspecting places to play a dramatic rendition of the Batman thing, then fade away only to reappear as mild-mannered Ned Johnson. Sure, it was the same thing every time, but hilarious nonetheless. Beaker (aka Neal) managed unmatched hilarity just by repeating the same catchphrases and making funny (really, really funny) noises. I still think of his gobbles and meeps as an integral part of the 2004 street beat. "No shenanigans" will always have a special meaning to me.
DON'T: Be worried about being popular, and don't be afraid to be nerdy. This is drum corps, or band camp, as your less-educated friends call it, for goodness sakes. Admitting that you used to like Magic cards (or still do) is not going to hurt your reputation. Drum corps is a great place to loosen up and be yourself.
DO: Keep and eye out for, and splurge on, ridiculous items on laundry days or free time. Ned's book of invertebrates was a neverending source of joy on tour this year. My first year we had a Donatello toy with a zip-line that we hooked up on the bus, and sliding things back and forth was highly enjoyable. I regret to this day not purchasing the 1950s book on space exploration that I found for $1 at a pharmacy.
Do: play pranks on your techs.
Don't: make messes.
Do: wake up the corps with an outlandish mix CD.
Don't: laugh when your instructors are angry.
Do: take a nacho-and-go instead of a gush-and-go.
Don't: make up your own music or drill.
Do: propose wacky visuals.
Do: write funny things on your music or in your dot book.
Do: break out in dance whenever possible, especially if you are a terrible dancer.
Do: throw a toga party on the bus. And do use the word hijinks whenever possible.
Well, my goal for this article is now complete: I used the words antics, shenanigans, tomfoolery and hijinks in a published work. I challenge you to do the same. Go forth, and make your drum corps a happier place!
Joel Barnes' past columns: The Real world The Real world Your first three years in drum corps 109,440 Minutes Joel Barnes has completed three seasons with the Crossmen, where he served as mellophone section leader and soloist for the 2005 season. He is 21 years old (DCI class of '06), and in the off-season he keeps busy by attending Yale University, from which he intends to receive a bachelors degree in mathematics this coming June. Joel keeps his legs and chops in shape by playing on the Yale Ultimate Frisbee team, and with the Yale Precision Marching Band, respectively. Feel free to E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions regarding the Crossmen, drum corps in general, or your math homework.