Drum Corps International
Stay flexible

Stay flexible

by Joe Smith

One thing that I have taken away from marching drum corps is to be flexible no matter what happens. A good friend of mine who has been around the drum corps community going on 26 years now has always told me that whenever I go into an audition, I should tell them I'm willing to play anything that they need. Generally I take this statement to heart unless I'm extremely nervous (like I was in November this year), and I'll at least attempt to make mention of this to the people sitting in the room. And mentioning this has really created an interesting, but great, concert band experience for me. So in 2003 I auditioned with the Colts on mellophone, and after the January camp was offered a contract. I took the news back to one of my band directors in Ankeny, Iowa, and he brought up an interesting proposition. He believed that it would be beneficial to me if I played French horn for concert band (since I am a trumpet player). After thinking about it for a day or two, I let him know that I would, because I love a new challenge. After about a week of practicing on my own, I was thrown onto the fourth horn part less than a week before the concert. That was an interesting situation to say the least, but I made the most of it. The rest of my junior year didn't turn out too badly at all on horn. At the end of my junior year, right before I went on tour, I made the decision to march mellophone my senior year of high school, and then to play French horn again for concert band. The year didn't turn out too badly, except for a few run-ins with my section leader during marching band. At the end of the year, though, I thought I would be setting the French horn down until my methods class in college (which is still a little way off from now). In September I started to take trumpet lessons from Andy Classen, the trumpet professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Once he found out that I had no actual ensemble to play with, he immediately put me in touch with the two conductors for the wind symphony and the concert band. They asked me to come in the following week to audition with everyone else. I said I would. So in a week's time I threw together part of the first page of Hummel's "Concerto in E-flat Major." I was a little nervous walking into the room with the two directors; the audition seemed to turn out fine, though. Then after talking to them for a few moments, they found out that I had played French horn for concert band in high school. So after a bit of discussion, I decided that I would play French horn, since they needed that more than trumpets.

That following weekend I was getting ready to head off to a marching band competition when I found out from the percussion tech (who is a percussion performance major at Drake) that I made principle horn in the concert band. Finding that out made me pretty excited for the concert band season. The first semester of concert band turned out pretty decent. We played "Sleep" by Eric Whitacre, which is a great piece, and a few others that weren't too bad at all. I believe that I made the right choice by choosing to play horn. The beginning of concert band started last week, and so far I have been very pleased by the director's choice of music. My favorite piece so far is "Watchman, Tell us of the Night" by Camphouse. And after some discussion with a good friend of mine and some time to think about things, I have decided that since I have been playing horn for three seasons now, I might as well start to get serious about it. So at the beginning of this week, after looking for a while, I decided it was time to order my very own French horn from an instrument website.

Some very positive things can happen if you're flexible about what you play, and I have learned that in a wonderful way. Stay flexible and have fun with what you do. Past columns by Joe Smith: On Personal motivation The Lure of strawberry smoothies In Praise of sponsors Loving the Phantom of the Opera A Picture is worth 1,000 words Dealing with tour withdrawal The Busy musical season A Hectic drum corps week Right where you left off The Other side Preparing for tour Getting away from it all: Report from a Colts' camp Strong winds, early sunset: Report from a Colts' camp Meet the visual tech New challenges in Dubuque My favorite place: Alfred, N.Y. Freezing rain, full ensemble: A report from Dubuque Discussing drum corps over the holidays