Drum Corps International
Memoirs of a moments junkie

Memoirs of a moments junkie

by Drum Corps International

Connie Miller lives in Austin, Texas, and has discovered the joys of drum corps from a parent's perspective. The following is constructed from a number of e-mails that she has sent me.

Michael Boo
I'll admit to being a "moments" junkie, as Michael Boo put it. You know, that moment when the show grabs you deep inside, the tears prick your eyes and a sob catches in your throat. Once you experience it, you go looking for it over and over in your marching band or corps. That's why I work the pit crew for my marching band, so I can be right there, at field level, where the energy explodes and the music hits you right in the chest. Most people wonder why a band mom like me became such a corps freak. I think that it all started simply because I am a band mom. When my daughter started marching first bass drum as a freshman last year, I discovered a whole new passion in my life ... marching band! I volunteered to help out with the fruit stand and ended up coming out every day or evening to see how the show had progressed. By running all over that field, offering ice chips and sprays of water, I saw how hardworking and dedicated those teenagers were and I was in awe! I would go home exhausted after my shift, and know that they still had hours more in the evening to work AND they were doing this every day! From my little experience there, I learned what foods sat well in a stomach after hours of drill in the heat and that I would do everything I could to keep my daughter rested and hydrated so that she could go out there every day to be a part of the magic they were creating. I wasn't alone in the way marching band captured my heart, but I soon found out that there was something else out there that would capture my soul! While I'm definitely still wet behind the ears when it comes to talking about corps, I am most definitely hooked! I saw my first drum corps show on PBS last year (2002) because my daughter's drummer boyfriends were all DCI marchers or soon-to-be. Some had marched DCI, others had family in corps and were planning on auditioning in November themselves. So drum corps was often the topic of conversation with that group. I felt like I had to watch the PBS broadcast see what the big deal was. It was insane! I could finally understand why they were so hyped on drum corps. Even on TV, you could feel the energy and excitement. They'd taken everything that I loved and admired about marching band and did it ten times better! How cool was that? You could marvel at the awesome combination of athleticism and musicianship! It made you want to be out on that field, too, working 12 hours a day, sleeping on buses and gym floors, just to be a part of that magic! And so began a year of learning about corps ... rooting for my boys when they went to Carolina Crown and Blue Knights and Phantom Regiment and Pioneer and Revolution auditions. Hearing about getting called back or cut and wondering where they would end up. And, once they made it, getting on Web sites to read about their directors and look at pictures from the camps, to listen to past shows and find out their tour schedules. My daughter, Sami, had the bug, too, so the two of us looked for anything to feed our hunger for corps and prepare us for when she would be ready to march. We absorbed all the stories from our corps boys and made note of anything mentioned that would make the experience easier, like bungee cords and baskets with suction cups, things to keep all your stuff handy while traveling on the long bus rides. And start running now, because you can expect to start your days with a stretch and run. They talked about the hardships of all days, trying to sleep on long bus rides or catching some flat time in noisy gymnasiums. You heard the words, but the enthusiasm in their voices told another story. You could tell that none of that mattered in the face of the greater excitement of committing to the challenge, making friends that shared that hardship, and knowing that they'd do it over and over again until they aged out. My daughter couldn't decide if she was more proud or embarrassed to have such a drum corps freak for a mom. She'd come into the study and see me on the DCI Web site looking over the recaps of one of "my corps" or listening to an MP3 of their performance with tears in my eyes. We'd be talking about one of our corps boys and I could tell her where they were on that date, where they were touring next and who they were competing with. I religiously kept up with "Mike's Memoirs" on the Phantom Regiment site and even made him cookies when they came to the Leander show. One of my new friends last year was Bev Frittelli, mother of three drummer boys who were marching DCI. She said, "I can look at a kid and tell if they're DCI material and I can tell that Sami has what it takes to do great." She and her husband have done so much to fan the flame of our desire to do corps. They spoke of volunteer opportunities to me, "You might not want to work the souvenir stand if you want to see your kid march." "If you work the cook truck, and they've been traveling all night on the buses and then pull into a school for some flat time in the gym, you can forget sleeping because it's time to get breakfast ready." And, "You'll be traveling on the directors' bus, so you can usually get a seat to yourself and stretch out." I could do that! Even with Bev to talk to, I still felt very weird and alone with my passion for corps because I didn't have a kid marching. Other than my young friends with whom I would Instant Message about the corps camps they were going to and their excitement about learning the drill and music for their show, I had very few people to talk to about this, and no adults. Our band director isn't a corps fan and I didn't know any adults who had marched. My band girlfriends are moments junkies like me, so I could share some of my excitement about the upcoming DCI competition in Leander, but I doubt that any of them lost sleep the night before because they just couldn't wait for their first live drum corps show! And I know that none of them had to kick their kid off the computer so that they could look up the recaps from the latest competition or play an MP3 of their favorite corps' performance from the DCI Web site. I felt a little better about my fanaticism when we arrived at the Leander competition and saw all the fans. I saw my own feelings of excitement reflected on the faces of those around me as we toured the parking lot listening to drum lines. I had a moment there when a chill ran through me picturing my own daughter standing with them in a drum and uniform and I doubt that I was alone. More moments came as we made our way into the stadium and glanced up at a wall of excited fans. This wasn't a Texas football game that had them all buzzing, it was drum corps! An entire side of this huge stadium was filled with drum corps fans like me! When you sit shoulder-to-shoulder in the stands, you can't help but converse with your neighbor and the same question was asked, at Leander and two days later at DCI San Antonio: "Do you have a kid marching?" I guess they were just trying to determine my interest in the competition. My answer, of course, was that I had lots of kids! Sean Frittelli, Michael Vigliotti and my new e-mail friend, Mike Miceli, from Phantom Regiment, Ryan Frittelli and Michael Gilley from Pioneer, and Eric Streif from Revolution! The moments kept coming as we cheered on their performances and later, saw them for the first time in months and hugged their skinny bodies. All I could do right then was hand them the bags of cookies I'd made when what I dearly yearned to do was go on tour and feed them! It was so hard to let them get on the buses for their next show. There's so much energy and vitality emanating from these kids that you just want to stand in its presence and soak it in. Sami and I knew that they had a long bus ride ahead of them and then hours of rehearsal in the hot sun, but both of us were ready to go with them ... she to march and me to care for them and cheer them on. When my daughter did a Bluecoats' Texas audition camp in November this year, I got to stay and work with the other parent volunteers. That's when I found out that I wasn't alone! And I wasn't weird! There were parents just like me who live for the sound of the band, who thrill at the pageantry and drill, who are awed by the strength and determination these kids put forth, who love the kids and can't wait for the next "moment" to sweep them away. Were they ex-corps members or had they marched in high school? No! For them, this experience grabbed them by the soul with no visceral remembrances of their own marching days. They needed to be a part of it, if it meant peeling carrots or dishing out meatballs ... anything to help those who were going to make the magical moments for us. Ninety percent of them were like me, new to the whole experience of drum corps, wanting to be there to support their son or daughter and willing to learn what it took to volunteer for the summer. You could see it in their eyes that they were ready to take on the job if their child got called back. One woman, Anne, said, "Last year I took off work three weeks to go on tour with my daughter and she decided at the last minute that she wasn't ready!" The daughter is ready this year and Anne can't wait. I've promised my husband that this summer he's going to get indoctrinated into the corps fan experience. We're blessed with the opportunities to see corps competitions in Leander and then DCI Southwestern Championships in San Antonio a few days later. He works with an ex-snare drummer from Santa Clara Vanguard, so the seeds of fanaticism have been planted and I can see them blooming into a full blown love of the activity this summer. Then he'll be the one checking out recaps and tour schedules and events pictures for a glimpse of all our "corps kids." He'll be the one driving our daughter to corps camps and researching percussion caption heads, reading forums and rooting for his corps. Because I've seen him wipe a tear from his eye during a "moment" at a marching show, I just know that another addict is in the making and you'll see us on tour very soon! It's hard for me to say if I would be this "into" corps if my percussionist daughter were a clarinet player. If there was never a chance that she'd march DCI, I wonder if I'd be so excited about the season, wondering what the shows will be like this year and where my corps will end up at Finals. But, you see, she has a definite plan to march this year or next, so I will have my chance to get up close to that phenomenon that makes my heart beat faster, brings tears to my eyes and tells my soul that I have found my bliss. I can spread my band mom love and get to know a whole new group of dedicated, hardworking musical athletes as "Sami's mom." I can hardly wait! Connie Miller [Update: Sami is an alternate pit percussionist for Revolution this summer, and she'll be marching in the corps' indoor competition winter percussion ensemble, which is new this year. According to Connie, Sami is "gaining some great experience working with the staff from Revolution Corps and they're getting to know her and train her in their technique. Everyone wins."
 
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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