Drum Corps International
Respect for volunteers

Respect for volunteers

by Emily Tannert

I have a confession to make here: I don't always know what to write about from week to week. Most of the time I figure it out several days ahead of time, but every once in a while I come up blank, so I turn to my friendly local drum corps member, Jeremy Logan, who is a member of the Cavaliers' front ensemble and the LSU percussion studio, for some help. Last night I messaged him in desperation: "What should I write about this week?!" "Respect for volunteers," he said. "They do all that work for us and don't get paid, and half the time they don't even get a thank you."

Emily Tannert
Jeremy nailed it in one. Volunteers work hard – very, very hard – to help keep a drum corps fed, in uniforms that look good, and moving down the road during the summers. Others help fundraise (bingo, anyone?), send out mailings, coordinate camps, sell souvenirs, sit on the board of directors, and even instruct. All of these functions are essential for the drum corps to go. Volunteers don't want money or plaques; they do it for the love of the activity and the kids in the corps. Most spend their vacation days and often a significant amount of money traveling to/from the corps, and many have to take vacation time to recover once they get home! Imagine the schedule of the cook crew: up at 5 a.m. (or whenever the corps gets to the new housing site), cook all day inside a steamy chuck truck, help water the corps before and after the show, serve snack when everyone else is chilling out, climb on the bus tiredly when the corps leaves the show site, sleep a couple of hours while in transit, then get up and do it all again. And some do this for weeks at a time! I've seen sewing crews get up long before the corps and work past lights out in order to complete uniform re-fittings and repair flags before a big show. Bus drivers live half-lives, sleeping all day and driving all night. Bingo volunteers will skip family vacations because they're worried about leaving the bingo game in someone else's hands for even a week. Many of these wonderful people have relationships with the drum corps that go back 10 or 20 years, back to when they marched or their kids marched. They have as much if not more invested in the group than the current members. This is why it steams me so much when I would overhear members complaining about this volunteer or that volunteer who had asked them to do something. Unfortunately, members who are not diligent in the performance of their crew jobs put the volunteers in the unfortunate position of having to remind the member of a disliked duty. The irresponsible member then blames the volunteer, already frazzled from lack of sleep and the stress of cooking 150+ people four meals a day, for having dared to scold him/her. Make it a practice to say "thank you" every time you interact with a volunteer, whether it's in the food line, during a uniform fitting, when you get on or off the bus, at a camp, whatever. These folks do what they do out of the goodness of their own hearts. Of course they derive some enjoyment out of just being there, but ask yourself – would you keep coming back someplace to do work when you felt none of the people who were being benefited appreciated your efforts? Probably not. Try to imagine a corps without volunteers, shudder at the horror of that picture, and then promptly go email your favorite volunteer to thank them for their efforts on your behalf. And don't forget that volunteers are people too. Some of my favorite people from tour are the volunteers I got close to as both a member and administrator. They never stopped taking care of me, even after I was no longer technically a member, and were a wonderful support system during all my summers on tour. We had some wonderful times on the volunteer bus at the end of the day, laughing at jokes that probably would not have been funny had we not been so sleep-deprived! Some truly neat people are involved in this activity, at all levels. Don't miss out on getting to know them.
Emily Tannert is a sophomore music education/percussion performance major at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University. Emily aged out of the Glassmen in 2003 and was assistant tour manager for the corps in 2004 and 2005. You can contact Emily at emily@imoses.com.
View archived Emily Tannert columns.

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