Emily Tannert
A drum corps will generally slog through any obstacle in order to rehearse. Blown tire? No problem, just skimp on the floor time. Tall grass? Get the toes up. Extreme temperatures? That's what clothing, or lack thereof, is for. A drum corps is a little like the U.S. Postal Service – neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail will keep it from delivering the perfect package. But one thing will stop a corps dead in its tracks, and that's rain. Now, I'm not talking about drizzle here, or even a brief shower -- it does take a full-fledged downpour or even an all-out thunderstorm before rehearsal gets called. One of the few rules DCI maintains about rehearsal practices is that a corps may not, for the health and safety of its members, rehearse once lightning has been sighted, and so when the rumble of thunder overpowers that of the concert bass drums, everyone breaks and runs for cover. Most of the members can get inside fairly easily: Grab the horn, grab the backpack, run for your life. It might take the color guard a couple of seconds longer. Inevitably, though, it is the pit that is left standing, or rather, frantically loading the equipment trailer, when the skies open. Even with a field frame, a marimba simply isn't as portable as a mellophone -- not to mention all the timpani and other auxiliary equipment! And so it is that, ten minutes after the rest of the corps has already shaken the three raindrops off their baseball caps and dispersed into small sectionals inside, the pit players show up in the school lobby, looking like drowned rats and dripping like small rain clouds (not that I'm bitter or anything ...) The best part is that even once you're inside, you don't get to STAY inside; you have to sprint back into the downpour to unload the trailers. Of course equipment issues crop up at the most inopportune times: Wheels refuse to turn, cymbal arms fall off, the tractor runs out of gas, etc. And the only door large enough to get the keyboards through will invariably be on the far side of the school from where you are practicing, and it will have no awning or other protective structure. Or if it does, the doorway will have a bar in the middle of it, and you will have to de- and reconstruct all the marimbas anyway. When you're in the pit, you come to accept that nothing having to do with your equipment will ever be easy. And this holds true even once everything is undercover. Unlike a horn or a drum, which can be allowed to air-dry, all the pit equipment has to be wiped down, water not tending to be good for rosewood and hand-hammered brass. If you're lucky, or good -- and after the first time you've spent hours with a blow dryer, you're always good -- your mallets have stayed dry, so that's one saving grace. Any concert drum or calfskin heads have to be carefully dried, since the water will stretch and warp the heads (marching heads are made of plastic or Kevlar, which is more durable). And any small moving parts have to, at least eventually, be oiled to combat rust damage. All in all, it's a huge pain in the neck, and also a huge waste of rehearsal time, but it's absolutely essential if you want to have playable equipment for the next show! Drying yourself and your own clothes off takes an equal amount of creativity and patience. If the whole corps got soaked, everyone has several articles of dripping-wet clothing to hang up to dry, and the locker room and gym become filled with shirts, shorts, socks and especially underwear (it's always interesting what insights one can gain into a person by their choice of undergarments). The air also fills with the slightly sick odor of mold and mildew. If you have to leave the housing site that night, your bag – and the inside of the bus – also fills with that rank smell; if you get to let everything dry overnight, at least your clothes are safe, but sometimes the air is so dank that it's difficult to get to sleep. And regardless, the next morning you get to experience that oh-so-pleasant feeling of your feet squishing into your still-soaked shoes. Unfortunately, in the middle of the summer the scenario of rain shower followed by sun, followed by shower, followed by sun, is a frequent one. And so it always seems that about the time you finally get everything dried, cleaned, oiled and hung out, the director shows up and announces that the storm has blown over and everyone needs to head outside for ensemble rehearsal. Naturally. But when you glance out the window, you can clearly see drops hitting the ground. When you voice your objections, the director smiles. "Just wear a jacket," he or she says. "After all, it's only rain."