Drum Corps International
So your baby's going off to march in a drum corps

So your baby's going off to march in a drum corps

by Emily Tannert

Congratulations! You've produced a progeny that has already displayed traits of dedication, determination, and a work ethic above and beyond 95 percent of the youth in this country. This is at least in part to the upbringing s/he received at your hands. Okay. Now that that's out of the way, here are a few harsh but essential truths of which you, the new drum corps parent, need to be aware. First off, your baby is going off to march drum corps without you. And it needs to stay that way. Drum corps, as organizations, can't run without parent involvement, however, drum corps, as field units, can't function unless parents stay the heck out of the way. Members won't receive the full benefits of the experience unless parents are willing to cut the apron strings and turn their little devils loose on the world. Chances are, if your kid has already gone off to college, this is less of an issue for you. If your child is still a high schooler or in between high school and college, this might be a little more difficult for you.

Emily Tannert
What makes this doubly hard is that the beginning of the drum corps season — the period when the corps is learning the show — is actually the least fun part of the process. So while you're trying to adjust to having your kid gone and getting used to the idea of his/her participating in the activity, you'll probably be getting some anguished calls home. They'll wail, "This isn't fun! It's not what I thought it'd be!" You may hear how tough the staff is, that the vets aren't nice, that your child is hurting, that the activity is simply too hard. Listen, sympathize, comfort, and then hang up the phone and forget everything s/he said. Whatever you do, don't immediately call the corps director and demand to know what the heck is going on, and by the same token, also don't rush right to the corps headquarters and bring your child home. Drum corps isn't easy, mentally or physically, and part of the experience is working through the steep learning curve and the self doubt. If your kid has made the corps, then s/he is capable of learning how to do this. But remember, it does take time to figure it out. And, as I said, the weeks that make up move-ins (also known as everydays, pre-tour or spring training) are actually the most challenging part of the season. That being said, there will be a few kids who do need to go home, either due to injury or for other reasons. There is no dishonor in this – it's just a fact of life. So if the corps director calls you and wants to discuss your child's membership status, listen with an open and unbiased ear. As an administrator, one of the ultimate frustrations is watching a member struggle to the point of breakdown, but the parent won't admit that the child is in over his or her head, so the member has to continue on. The worst part is that most of the time the member knows s/he isn't hacking it and ends up going home two weeks later anyway, having had a very negative drum corps experience. All administrators want all members – and their families – to have very positive drum corps experiences, and they know the difference between a kid who is fighting the good fight and a kid who is fighting a losing battle. This distinction isn't always readily apparent to someone outside the activity, so if a corps or tour director says you need to reconsider your child's membership at this time, please listen and do just that. It's not fair to your child to do otherwise. Last but not least, remember that when your child has gone to participate with a drum corps, your child's focus needs to be 100 percent on the corps every day. If your child is taking part in everydays near your home, you should still have a mindset that s/he is halfway across the country. This means you can't necessarily come pick your child up for a doctor's visit, haircut, or to go out to lunch. But some members will find it necessary to leave everydays and/or tour for a day or two for events such as graduation, college orientation, wedding or funeral. These are important events in a person's life and should be treated as such keeping in mind, however, that it's important both to your child and to the rest of the drum corps that s/he be there to support the team for the greater good. In general, it's better to miss a rehearsal day than a show day, but the best is simply not to miss any days at all, and this should be you and your child's goal. Support your child's absolute commitment to the corps by not pressuring him/her to choose between events. I've made probably made the drum corps experience sound a lot more scary than it really is here! Chances are, your child is going to have a blast from day one. And if the transition is not as smooth as you might hope, be your child's cheerleader from a safe distance. Marching drum corps is a fantastic adventure best discovered without a leash.
Emily Tannert is a music education/percussion performance major at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University. Emily graduated from 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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