Drum Corps International
Nolan's story

Nolan's story

by Drum Corps International

The following came from Heather Pomeroy regarding her autistic son, Nolan, and his encounter with the caring staff and members of the Blue Devils. I was fortunate to have marched with the Blue Devils for three years in the 1980s. If anyone were to ask, other than my three children, this would be the one thing about me of which I was most proud. I got to be a part of all the things that at that time defined the Devils. I wore the black jumpsuit of the guard, got to use wings and even got to win a DCI World Championship title marching the program "Channel One Suite." It still makes me a little sad to think that he won't ever be able to participate in drum corps in a traditional way, but he was welcomed with open arms to participate in ways that he can. It was thrilling and exhilarating, but also exhausting and hard. Of course, as a mother, I wanted my children to understand this thing I had done. When finals were in Washington, D.C., I took my two children—who were then five and one years of age—to the Blue Devils housing site to watch practice. Since Nolan and Caroline had been thoroughly brainwashed with videos, they were star struck. I was amazed by how warm and welcoming everyone was to our visit. As the years have passed, I discovered that they had no recollection of that visit. I supposed that it shouldn't have surprised me because they were so young. I tried explaining to them what this whole drum corps thing was all about. They wanted to understand, but anyone who has ever tried to explain drum corps to the uninitiated knows what a difficult task that can be. In my case, it was compounded by the fact that Nolan, my oldest (now of three) is autistic. Emotional ideas and abstract thought are nearly impossible for him to grasp. This summer, with the encouragement of Michael Boo and the enthusiastic support of Pete Emmons and Dave Gibbs, I packed up the two big kids and headed to Pennsylvania to show them what life is like in drum corps. Once again, everyone was wonderful. The kids explored every vehicle, ate lunch from the food truck and watched practice from the press box. Members and staff made themselves available to us and every question Nolan asked was answered, although I must say that I was relieved when he omitted his initial opening, "How disappointed were you last year when for the first time ever, the Blue Devils lost in a year that ended in 6?" Nolan, armed with his tape recorder, asked the questions and wrote the following article. Daughter Caroline was the photographer. Nolan's article: I think what being a Blue Devil means is to practice on instruments and to persevere no matter what. I think that's very important. After a lot of hard work, which is difficult in my opinion, a lot of people "aged out" in 2007. My trip was pretty much what I expected. I think the worst part about being a Blue Devil would be what some members think: hard work.
I talked to very important members. The most important was Pete Emmons. He started as a soprano player in Casper, Wyo. He said that the next big thing in corps performances would probably be a new kind of sound. They are also adding more people. There will also be a new kind of dimension. I think all of that is cool. I can't wait to see more about it in the next five or six years. Another member I talked to is Ricky Odello, the center bass. His grandparents were some of the founders of the Blue Devils. He was in the Blue Devils since he was four. I think it's pretty awesome! He was in the C corps in '89-'98, '99-'02 in the B corps, has been in the A corps since '03 and will age out in '07. What's even more awesome is that he also has a younger brother who's the fourth bass. I also talked to John Meehan. He was in the corps since 1980, and is the brass caption head, which means that he teaches the horn line. Seems like an important job to me, don't you think? As well as teaching the horn line, he plays the trumpet. He started because his dad was his instructor back then. Even better is that he doesn't think anything about being a Blue Devil is bad. I also talked to Scott Johnson. He's the percussion caption head. In other words, he teaches drum line music. He's been teaching since '78 and marched in '76-'79. He handles the practice schedule and equipment. He sure is nice, like Pete Emmons and, well, everyone!
I also talked to Matt Regua. He's the leader of the snare section. He's responsible for tempos on the drums. He says numbers to tell the people what to play. I was amazed by his job. It's very good, in my opinion. I talked to many other important members. There's Chris Huelschle, the horn sergeant, Janelle Juen, the color guard captain, Brain Howard, a drum major, and Ben Maughmer, a drum instructor. There's also a rookie whom I talked to. His name is Bill Fritz, and he plays the mellophone. He, along with Janelle and Chris, age out in 2007. They are nice, kind, and smart. Every member is, and they all seemed very responsible. The private trip was great. I saw the Blue Devils perform in two competitions. One was in Allentown, and the other in Hershey. They won both, and I was proud at that! Still, I was proud when I got home, too.
This really was a great experience for all of us and I will always be thankful to how gracious everyone was with Nolan. It still makes me a little sad to think that he won't ever be able to participate in drum corps in a traditional way, but he was welcomed with open arms to participate in ways that he can. He was thrilled to see the generator we picked up get rolled onto the field in Hershey, like he was a member of the team, and so excited to be able to name a bunch of kids and pick them out during the shows. I haven't given up hope of a kid marching, though. Caroline got a flag from a souvenir booth and is showing a surprising amount of natural ability. Not that I'm biased.

Editorial assistance by Michael Boo. Fanfare archives

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