Drum Corps International
Passing the torch 20 years later

Passing the torch 20 years later

by Michael Boo

Michael Terry contributed the following. I first became involved in drum corps in 1971 at the age of 16 when two high school friends talked me into accompanying them to a rehearsal of the Alabama Charioteers in Troy, Ala. I was fascinated with the precision and complexity displayed by the drum line, and the sheer power of the horns. Needless to say, I was hooked on the spot and joined, earning a double tenor spot. For those whom have never seen a double tenor, it was a set of two drums that eventually became the triple tenor, the quads and eventually quints. Unfortunately, due to my mother's end-stage terminal illness, I had to drop out of the corps in May of that year and delay the beginning of my drum corps career until the following year. My mother passed away in September 1971, and I was back at corps rehearsals that winter for the 1972 season. The 1971 version of the Charioteers was unique in that it was a startup, first-year corps entirely comprised of members who had absolutely no competitive experience -- not a single member had ever marched in a drum corps before. The season for the Charioteers had consisted of just one competition, the American Legion National Championship prelims in the Houston, Texas, Astrodome. The staff did not even consider that we could make finals in the only contest we would compete in that year -- let alone a national championships finals! So, all the effort was poured into simply making the best first-year showing possible with the 5 1/2 minute prelim show! In those days, the American Legion and VFW required corps to play shorter shows in prelims in order to establish which corps would move into finals. In hindsight, this was perhaps a bad decision, but given the caliber and sheer number of competitors "back in the day," I think the idea was solid enough at the time. The corps surprised everyone by qualifying for the finals competition, but had to withdraw because they only had a 5 1/2 minute prelim show. Even though the corps had competed in one show the previous year, we were generally still considered a new corps in 1972. We toured for about four weeks that year and competed in the first-ever DCI World Championship at Warhawk Stadium in Whitewater, Wis., on Aug. 17, 1972, where we placed 22nd -- earning DCI membership, just ahead of Stockton Commodores, Phantom Regiment and Guardsmen, corps that would be DCI World finalists within one, two and four years, respectively. I marched in the Charioteers through the 1975 season. I met my first wife in the corps, and we married in January 1974. We marched in 1974 and 1975, but still had to follow all the rules of the corps on tour; no overt public displays of affection, etc. In 1976, I made a decision that I regret to this day. It was my ageout year, and I decided to take a staff position teaching the corps, rather than marching. I took 1977 and 1978 off and became merely a fan in the stands. By 1979, I was itching to become active in the activity again. In 1980, I took a staff position with the new Imperial Guard of Evansville, Ind., and I was on the show committee that ran the highly successful DCI show in Montgomery, Ala. In the fall of 1980, Dr. Sandy Dautch and his wife, Carol, referred five Robert E. Lee high school students to me. These students had attended the 1980 DCI World Championship in Birmingham, Ala., and wanted to march in a drum corps, but did not want to travel long distances to rehearse. They asked me to start a drum corps for them. After much discussion, I decided to humor them, thinking that as soon as they saw the amount of work involved, they would abandon the idea, go away, and leave me alone. We developed a plan. I recruited Dr. and Mrs. Dautch to organize a booster club, and in November 1980 we held organizational meetings. By December, we were rehearsing and by June 1981, we were on a full tour with 93 charter members of Southwind at the DCI World Championship in Montr?©al, Qu?©bec. So much for "going away and leaving me alone!" Fast-forward to August 1992 in Whitewater, Wis. I found myself standing on the sidelines of the very field in the very stadium where 20 years earlier I had marched in the first DCI championship competition. I was watching Southwind perform in the DCI Division II World Championship finals. David "Big Dave" Bryan, my assistant director in the early years, had succeeded me as corps director. I was now a management adviser and member of the tour staff. With performances over, I stood in front of the corps assembled on the field for retreat and nervously awaited the scores with my second wife, (who was also a drum corps alum -- of the Kenosha, Wis., Queensmen and Des Plaines Vanguard), my six-year-old son (then already a drum corps nut and now in 2005, a six-year veteran of the Cadets), and the rest of the Southwind staff. Even though Southwind was the favorite to win the Division II title, a surprising third-place finish at prelims to Northern Aurora and Carolina Crown had the Southwind contingent nervous. In the end, Southwind was crowned the 1992 DCI Division II World Champion and I could not have been more proud of each and every member and of the organization that I founded. I cried openly with emotion, the likes of which I had never before experienced. Pride, relief, gratitude, love, and much more that I can't even define. The one thing that stands out as I stood on that "field of dreams" almost exactly 20 years after the first DCI Championship in Whitewater was a feeling I had of "passing the torch" to a new generation of drum corps members who would one day pass the torch down again to the next generation, as it had been passed from previous generations through many decades of drum corps history. As I look at the contemporary drum and bugle corps of 2005, much has changed since 1971. However, I remain convinced that more has remained constant; the core values, the work ethic, the fraternal/familial bond of any member from any era to any member from another era, the life skills and lessons learned, the exposure to different locales and cultures, the opportunity to learn, hone or advance ones musical and performance skills, the growth of personal responsibility and personal confidence, the desire to be the best you can be and relishing the hard work and sacrifice it takes to realize that goal, learning the grace to be a humble winner and a gracious loser. Yes, the instruments and equipment have evolved, but the important things that truly define the drum and bugle corps activity as an American treasure remain strong and firmly intact. 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 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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