Andy and Mildred Johnson live in Collierville, Tenn., a suburb of Memphis. Andy is on the Board of Directors of Memphis. Both Andy and Mildred are host parents for the corps. Andy: Last year we took in four kids from Memphis Sound. This year we have three. Every year the kids fight over who gets to stay with us. Mildred: We feed them well.
Andy: Food is a powerful motivating factor. Mildred: Andy introduced me to drum corps. Once I saw the kids working, I was hooked. All the discipline and hard work ... they march from 9 to 9 on asphalt pavement in all kinds of extreme weather. Andy: I just have such an admiration for what these kids do. When I was younger, we had no drum corps in Memphis. The closest corps was Spirit of Atlanta, and that was too far to go. Trey Moore, the founder and Executive Director of Memphis Sound, is a member of my church. He said, "We're starting a drum corps." I said, "Great, how can I help?" It evolved into a board position and then keeping kids at our house and then driving over 1,200 miles to Denver. Mildred: I'm addicted to drum corps. I feel the kids are mine. You grow to love them and you miss them when they leave. This summer was over much too quickly. It really went quickly. Andy: I think we go through empty nest syndrome. Mildred: It's nice to have the kids around. If they're not rehearsing or going over the day's events, they're singing their parts and drumming their hands. Andy: We've got kids downstairs with drumsticks beating on the couch. Mildred: I wanted us to have a haven for the kids to come to after working hard, where they can relax, have fun, be happy. I love it that they eat my cooking. As for what it costs us to feed them, we don't keep track of it. It's not an issue. Andy: That doesn't really matter. We just want them to have a home away from home. Mildred: We've been planning this trip for a year. We're supporting Memphis Sound any way we can, but we're especially following our kids. Andy: The funny thing about our kids this summer is that all three of them are named Matt. Mildred: People asked if it was difficult to keep them separated. I said, "No." I just said, "Matt, please set the table," and it would get done by one of them. Andy: Usually, I just whistled and yelled, "Matt," and usually one, two or all three of them would answer. Mildred: Each one has their distinctive style of laundry habits. One of them brought in a huge three-foot duffle bag of dirty clothes and dumped them all in the washer at one time. I didn't know the washer had that capacity, though the spin cycle just sort of groaned. Andy: I'm not sure all the clothes got wet. Mildred: Having them all named Matt makes it easier for us to cheer for them. Andy just yells out, "Go, Matt!" They all hear him and know who it is. Andy: We first thought we would yell, "Go, Matt! Go, Matt! Go, Matt!" But it was just easier to yell it all at once. Mildred: They're no maintenance. Andy: We've probably made friends for life. I'm sure we'll wind up going to their weddings and hearing about their kids being born. Mildred: We hope. Andy: We didn't realize they were all named Matt until they all showed up. Mildred: They were more conscious of it because there are other Matts in the corps. We were thinking of making it a requirement for next year that all our adopted kids be named Matt. Andy: We could call it the Matt House. One of the Matts, our snare drummer, has a last name of Hines. The corps nicknamed him "57" and we called him that to keep him apart. Matt 1 (Souther) is the drum major and Matt 2 (Verrette) is in the soprano line. Mildred: Matt Verrette, sadly, is aging out. Andy: We're hoping to get the other two back next year. Mildred: We love our boys and the corps. Andy: It's been a great year. Mildred: We've been blessed to get to know them and it's been an honor to have them with us. Andy: They're all so different, which makes them so special. Mildred: They were very quiet at first, very polite. They're still polite, but not nearly as quiet, because they're more relaxed. Andy: Usually, when I talk to someone who doesn't know anything about drum corps, I get emotional about it because they don't understand about the hard work. You watch the kids go through all the hard work, and others just don't understand what they go through...the sacrifice they make. Mildred: I'm just so proud of them I could pop. Andy: We just love them so much.
Andy and Mildred, with age-out Matt Verrette.