Drum Corps International
Oh, Baby

Oh, Baby

by Michael Boo

The following was written by Linda Ressler.

Christopher Joseph "CJ" Miller
Who was the Cavalier baby at the Indianapolis show this past summer? That part is easy. His name is Christopher Joseph "CJ" Miller, son of Ron and Michele Miller (1989 Phantom Regiment Cadets, 1990 Limited Edition, and 1991-1995 Velvet Knights) and grandson of Linda Ressler (Piasa Indians 1963-1967 and drum corps Mom), born Dec. 30, 2002. Why is he in a Cavalier uniform? Well, that's a little harder to answer. Grandma Linda marched in the 1960s with the state, regional and national champion Piasa Indians drill and baton Corps. In 1967, they were the first North American National Color Guard Champions. She couldn't march drum corps since the local corps, the Belleville Black Knights, was 40 miles away and an all-male corps. Winning allowed us to be one of the opening performing groups at the drum corps competitions and I got to watch an art form I loved. Like many of today's fans, I fell in love with the Chicago Cavaliers. I close my eyes and see them coming into the darkened state fair field for competition -- one spotlight with the shimmering of silver starting to appear. Great memory, but what a horrible marching field. Winning, losing, didn't matter to me; they were my corps and after all these years, they still are. Always keeping my scrapbook with bits and pieces of memories, I kept a plume from a Cavie shako at VFW Nationals, Roosevelt Stadium, 1966, New York. Filled with old memories, it now has new ones too -- a lot for just a feather. When I became a mother, my few seconds of any regret for hoping and wanting a baby girl were fleeting with only a, "Oh well, she'll never be a Cavalier." My husband waited for too many buses in the middle of the night to really enjoy drum corps, so I took my daughter. He got mad at the judges from the first show he attended while Michele was marching. He thought corps at the bottom were robbed by corps at the very top. He was a good drum corps dad but never could do a tour, just too many shows. At 5 to 7 years old, I paid Michele to sit through the shows. We baked cookies and gave them to any corps she picked. A favorite picture is of Michele in a Sky Ryders hat and flag surrounded by corps members. As fate would have it, as a 7th grader, Michele was paid to carry a parade/sponsor banner in front of the Black Knights. After the parade, she was hooked and started begging to march. She played a horn and a snare drum, but wanted to be in the guard. At DCI World Championships, she loved the Madison Scouts and wore her Madison jacket, proclaiming that she would march there someday. I didn't break her heart until later. At 1987 DCI World Championships, she saw the Velvet Knights for the first time. The love was instant, and they had girls. She declared it was her corps. This time my heart cracked. A California corps? We live in central Illinois. Then I remembered begging to march in a corps 50 miles away. I was still young enough to march drum corps, but it was too far away. I couldn't say those words and we started trying to help Michele follow a dream. What was 3,000 miles for a dream? She lived too far away to just show up at practices and get some training. A first step was needed. At the 1988 DCI World Championsips, we talked to the Phantom Regiment Cadets and Michele joined the corps. From the beginning, she told everyone she was going to march with the Velvet Knights. Too new a performer for Phantom Regiment and too old for PRC, her next step was a top 25 corps. We talked to Limited Edition at the 1989 DCI World Championships. The corps helped her gain experience and continue her dream. In 1990, a friend from a British corps wanted to march and I convinced him to try out for the Cavaliers. I'd finally have that son. I helped at camps and did an early tour, joining my daughter on the road. 1991 found Michele marching with the Velvet Knights. She never looked back. I toured with the corps after the early California shows. One of her best drum corps friends, Nathan Smith, was a seven-year age-out of the Cavaliers. They have appeared in Drum Corps World many times in "buddy" pictures. The Cavalier and the Velvet Knight. With her corps gone, she cheers them all -- especially the Cavies -- and has hopes for the young California corps with many old VK faces, Impulse. In 1993, Jeff Fiedler invited me to help the Cavaliers on their early tour. My reward would be seeing all the California shows during VK's early season. Wow -- a win/win situation. After that summer, I told God that I was ready to die. I loved touring with Cavies and Velvet Knights. Dreams didn't get any better. I felt like the mother of 200. And what fun along the way! Happy that one "child" was winning and never more proud of one that wasn't. I learned the two corps were very much alike. Jack Bevins, VK's director, and Jeff made sure members of both corps got plenty of sleep, plenty of fun, and taught them to believe in themselves. I'd come full circle in my drum corps experience. I was home two weeks from June to August. After each season ended, I had nightmares of missing the bus, but the hallucinations only lasted a few weeks. Lots of plane rides and sleepless summers -- I wouldn't have missed it. And yes, Michele was asked to march in a corps that could promise finals and rings. On tour, my daughter gave me a custom birthday shirt to wear. Front: "WHY I'M WITH VK." Back: Top 10 reasons that included # 10 "da shoes," but she knew that # 5 would only be understood by the two of us: # 5 "Jeff said "NO!" While messages sent to her mom at the VK banquets sometimes got tiring, Michele always understood my love of the Green Machine. We have many friends we see once or twice a year from around the world. These are friendships that non-drum corps friends don't quite understand. You have to live it to understand it. We trust them like family and in a way, we are part of that big DCI family that makes airports scratch their heads and hotels question why their guests roam the halls visiting until dawn. In many ways, going to DCI World Championships is just that -- a reunion of our past and a celebration of the future. We saw the Fanatic Fan contest on the Cavaliers' Web site and decided to do something fun with it. Convinced to show Cavies they needed to stay around at least 15 more years, we'd present them with a true newborn Cavalier wannabe. CJ used my plume for his hat. A uniform came next, and to prove he was a true fan, he brought along his own Don Warren-like cigar, as every good Cavie would! At Indianapolis prelims, CJ dressed in honor of his mom's corps. Red Converse sneakers and a "Too Cool for Rules" "onezie" that featured a cat wearing red Converse sneakers -- really, purchased at a store. Other drum corps fans frowned at our stroller and our wide used of the walkway. Later that evening, the mood would change. Just put that same baby in the same stroller in a Cavaliers' uniform and the sea of fans parted, giving way to "oohs" and "aahs." We didn't expect this, but CJ was the perfect Cavie ambassador and was photographed with many people. We were just entering a contest and had no thoughts of anything more. Maybe he was the accessible Cavalier; letting fans take home part of an experience. Maybe he gave hope to the future of drum corps. CJ loved watching all the corps, never tired day or night and never interrupted a performance with a noise. He napped in between shows. CJ was introduced by Dan Potter before the Cavaliers performed and even made the video of Indy highlights. For a 7-month-old to be in a domed stadium, on the 50-yard line, at field level, without earplugs watching the Cadets perform their great show signaled to me that he knows his destiny. The sound of drum corps up close and personal was a natural to his young ears (and he seems to have no long-term ill effects). If we can keep this great activity going into the future, we will see more multi-generations involved. How wonderful the future could be.
Fanfare archives 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 masters 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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