Drum Corps International
Steve Yoder remembered

Steve Yoder remembered

by Michael Boo

The following was sent to me by Andrea Birbilis, who has worked with a number of corps in the Midwest. It was written on Nov. 6. As Joni Mitchell once said, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." Today I sat at my desk trying to concentrate on the grades that had to be entered into the computer by 5 p.m. My mind was preoccupied with thoughts of a good friend who left us all way too soon.

Steve Yoder
The best part of the drum corps experience is the friends that we make and the incredible experiences that we share with these people from year to year. When things get tough, and life slaps us upside the head one too many times, it's a real comfort to know that our drum corps buddies are always there for us. College marching band, choir, dorm roomies and sororities were all great fun, but the people that I can always depend on are those with whom I have traipsed all over God's green earth. These people are my "buddies," which in my book is sort an "uber-friend." Steve Yoder was an uber-friend to many. I first met him when I taught the Saginaires in 1983. He was on the visual staff. At times he was a little bit arrogant, or maybe I was a little bit arrogant. Whatever the case, he was bigger than life itself. He could call a marching "tic" a mile away. He could get in your face and reduce you to tears, while simultaneously making you rise to the occasion and put out your best work. He was creative and smart. And he knew more about color guard and marching in general than I will EVER know. He also wasn't the least bit "afraid" of sharing his knowledge with those who were less informed than he was. He designed flags, sewed flags, wrote drill, and also appreciated the finer points of a good gin and tonic. Sometimes we had disagreements. Sometimes he'd get ticked off. Sometimes he'd tick me off. No matter what the heat of the moment brought about, I don't think the man knew how to hold a grudge. Steve Yoder was a world-class snoring machine. During our tenure with Northern Aurora in the late 1980s -- each year just before DeKalb -- we would go to Sterling, Ill., for a weeklong camp. If snoring was an Olympic event, the 1987 Northern Aurora staff would have captured the gold medal. I often tried to get a separate room for the snorers so the rest of the staff could actually get some sleep. The facility at this particular recreation center did not allow for such a luxury. Between Steve and the some of the horn staff, steel beams could vibrate. A popular NA tradition was wake-up tapes. Jim Batcheller and Vince Noble took special pride in creating these things. The corps kids didn't particularly care for the staff's peculiar brand of humor, which only made Vince and Jim work harder. These tapes included everything from Jim posing as Mr. Rogers attempting to wake up a drum corps (with the help of several carefully pronounced expletives) to Wink Martindale reciting the Gettysburg address, with polka music playing in the background. This particular week, we were all pretty fried. It was hot, awfully hot. There were bugs everywhere. LOTS AND LOTS of bugs. The members were crabby. Practice wasn't going so well. Jim and Vince felt compelled to do something to lighten the mood. They created the "Mother of all wake-up tapes." It was to be "An Interview with the Yoderbeast." By the middle of the week, the snoring was especially loud, so Jim and Vince took the color guard's boom box into the staff room and proceeded to create audio history. They taped Steve snoring and made it into an interview, sort of like Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds." The snoring continued. This went on for several minutes. Finally Jim and Vince emerged from the staff room cackling like two old grannies, obviously pleased with their efforts. It was pretty funny. I remember the end of the tape, "AGH! It's coming this way AAAAGGHHHZZZZHZHZHZHHHHZGHHWHUP." And then a little voice squeaked out, "I've been hit. Save yooooorrrr selves. Aaaaaaggghhhh" I don't think the corps members enjoyed this artistic tour-de-force half as much as the staff did. It was the hit of breakfast the following morning; especially when Steve kept telling us that HE didn't snore. Never had. Never would. He had a certain way with young people, a way that encouraged them to do their best. He was there for the good times and the not-so-good times. He gave of himself in numerous ways, both on and off the field. He just expected the best from the people that he worked with and he knew just how to get us to work as hard as he did. Steve saw opportunities where other people saw obstacles. I left Michigan in 1990 and moved to Wisconsin. For several years, I didn't pay much attention to what was going on in the state, and I let some friendships slide. I think I just needed to grow up a bit. The next time that I saw Steve was 2001 and we were at the DCM Championships in DeKalb. We had a brief chat about what we had been doing for the past decade and I was struck by how genuinely pleased we both were to see each other again. Last summer, Steve and I met once again at DCM finals. He was teaching the Colts and I was working with the Racine Scouts. We had a few "remember when" stories to exchange, and then we discussed where our seasons were headed. He seemed wiser, but not really any older. If I only knew then what I know now. Did he look tired or sick then? Heck, who knows? None of us look like much after a month on the road. This past Monday morning, I received an e-mail from Vince Noble, telling me that Steve had passed away on Sunday. The shock riveted me to me chair. How could he possibly be dead, when I didn't even know that he was SICK? He was only 48 years old. How, oh how, oh how could this have happened? He was supposed to be on my Christmas card list. As I went through my e-mail list to let other friends know what had happened, I was struck by all of the people that I have fallen out of touch with. Maybe I was too busy to write. Maybe they were too busy to answer. I just figured that like Steve, sooner or later we would all stumble back into each other's lives again -- like next summer at a truck stop in the dead of night, or at a show waiting for critique to start. I looked down that long list and forced myself to remember what it was about each person that made them so special to me. All those miles spent on buses, discussing everything and/or nothing at all. Shared confidences, plotting one thing or another, before-critique beers shared at a staff van, 2 a.m. talks outside the schools we stayed in, countless nighttime rides from one end of the universe to the other. Now one of my co-conspirators was gone. And I never took the time to say "thanks for being there," or the opportunity to tell him how his friendship made me a better person, how he helped me to grow up, to keep me keeping on for more years than I care to remember. Thirty summers of traveling and sleeping on gym floors has made me realize that people walk in and out of our lives by the hundreds. For each of us, there are special friends who really make the activity worth it for us. Don't waste another minute. Pick up the phone, dash off an e-mail, get in your car and drive. WHATEVER IT TAKES, but let your friends know what they mean to you. Tomorrow might not be an option. In the spirit of "Physician, heal thyself," I sent an e-mail to a former marching member buddy that I haven't heard from in over 20 years. If you had a stupid spat with someone last year or five years ago, I am here to tell you that it's time to let go of it. Bury the hatchet. Chances are that all the excess baggage isn't that important anymore. We couldn't do what we do year-after-year without the understanding, acceptance and devotion of our "buddies." Pay the kindness forward. Don't let today pass away without letting someone know that they are special to you. Then open up your checkbook and make a contribution, no matter how insignificant, to any aspect of the marching arts; because you can, and because we ALL owe something to the activity that brings us all together year after year. Steve would like that. Fanfare archives Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a masters degree in music theory and composition.
   
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.

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