April is drum corps volunteer month on DCI.org. If you'd like to "nominate" a fabulous drum corps volunteer, send a writeup and a photo to email@example.com. John Burgan, assistant director/tour manager of the Crossmen, nominated Ted Mills. Like so many others, your first exposure to drum corps is a story within a story. Drum corps sometimes seeks you out or falls right in your lap. While other times you seek it out, for Ted Mills of Ashton, Pa., it was a combination of both, so to speak.
Ted's first exposure to drum corps came the summer of 1980. While living in Lester, Pa., Ted was working around his house and heard this unique sound in the distance. That sound got the best of him. Although he didn't recognize those unique tones, he felt drawn to it. Ted had to figure out the origin and proceeded to jump in his car to investigate. While driving around with his windows rolled down, the noise became louder and clearer, and he soon found himself across town at "Boeing Beach," just outside of the Philadelphia Airport -- near the origin of that unique sound. This was the home practice facilities for the Crossmen for many years. Ted was awestruck when he located the source of music, and he witnessed the 130-odd members of the corps rehearsing on that hot summer eve. Ted was immediately hooked! Ted watched the remainder of that rehearsal and found out that the corps would be returning. After work each evening Ted would stop by, and it became his nightly activity. After hanging out for a few nights, Ted found that he wasn't alone, and soon met many other fans, parents and the management of the Crossmen. As many of you know, if you hang around a drum corps, sooner or later someone is going to approach you and ask if you'd like to help. In Ted's case, he became a bus driver. Ted had a chance to encounter a conversation with the Crossmen founder and then-corps director Harold "Robbie" Robinson. Robinson asked him if he'd like to drive a coach bus. Ted had always enjoyed driving larger vehicles, and the thought of seeing this great country on a cross-country tour was appealing. He jumped at the chance to offer his services. Ted drove coach for the summers of 1980 -1982. With a change in career and while nourishing a family with his wife, Candy, (who is also now involved in supporting the Crossmen as well as a young daughter, Amy), there was no time for him to give. Ted had to put behind his passion for the Crossmen, well let's just say on the "back burner." Ted's other passion is Ham Radio. Ted had met an individual, Bob Fields, many years ago while "chatting" on the radio. While Ted and Bob talked for many years, neither one ever brought up drum corps. Some may recognize Bob's name from reporting for Drum Corps World. Well, on one evening, they got on the subject of what each other had planned for the summer. Ted stated that he would be running his daughter to and from band practices. Ted is quite involved with the band boosters at Sun Valley High School, where Crossmen alum Darren Hazlett is the band director. Bob's response: "Cool, have you ever heard of drum corps"? Ted jumped in and spoke of his past work for the Crossmen. Low and behold, it turned out Bob is married to a Crossmen alum. At that time, both Bob and Terry Fields volunteered to help with the corps as well with other YEA! functions. Bob suggested that Ted come out and see the corps again, that he would be amazed at all the changes that had occurred with the corps and the activity itself. Ted agreed to show up at a camp. It is true that once drum corps is in your blood, it's there for life, and the adrenaline started to boil again when Ted saw his beloved "Bones" again in 2002. Ted has volunteered his time for winter camp weekends since 2002, and handles picking and dropping off members at the airport, bus and train stations. On certain Sundays, Ted can be on the road as many as 10 hours with his commute to and from those destinations. Ted also takes part on long holiday weekends and takes two weeks vacation to drive on the summer national tour. "I enjoy hearing comments from other volunteer parents asking, 'Did I march' and 'Are you a super alum?',or 'What does your child play for the Crossmen?'" Ted usually goes on to reply that, "I don't have a child in the program yet, but hopefully she'll be marching here next summer." Ted loves the reaction he gets and then they realize he's been around dating back to 1980. Ted summed it up in just this line: "As proud as the marching members are to be a part of this organization, I'm as equally proud to be able to be called a Crossmen as well. This huge family bond is incredible!" We salute you, Mr. Ted Mills, for your many years of service and are equally proud to have you apart of the "Bones" family. Thank you on behalf of the many past and present members of the Crossmen that you have driven safely aboard your buses. We look forward to your service this summer, and we hope you can share this experience with your entire family in the many more years to come.