TAIPEI YUEHFU REPRESENTS THE "I" IN "DCI"The hands-down winner for the corps that has traveled the furthest to compete at the Drum Corps International World Championships is Taipei Yuehfu, hailing from the island of Taiwan in Asia.Taipei Yuehfu is the only corps in Taiwan, an island that doesn't have much of a history of music in the schools. According to brass caption head Jaiming Fan, only about one in ten high schools even has a concert band program. Very few teachers know anything about marching.Gary Brattin, an American teacher on the island, founded the corps in 1996. At first, it was a marching band; including woodwinds. But soon, the corps had aspirations of competing in the Summer Music Games, just like all the corps the members saw on Drum Corps International videotapes.This is the third year in a row that the corps has fulfilled its dreams of competing in America, and it is going for its third consecutive DCI Summer Music Games International Championship. But it's uncertain how often the corps will come back in the future, as big financial challenges make it difficult to travel across the Pacific Ocean. More than one-third of each member's tour expense is for a $1,000 round-trip airline ticket from Taiwan. Some members work two or three part-time jobs just to make the trip.Another concern, according to Jaiming Fan, is that parents in Taiwan typically don't support extracurricular activities that they feel will take up too much of their children's time, time that could be used preparing for Taiwan's tremendously difficult mandatory college entrance exams. He adds, "We are trying to tell people that marching in a corps helps one manage their time. But it's hard to persuade them."Matt Hsu, tour coordinator, says that it's difficult to arrange housing, practicing, eating and showers from the other side of the world. "We have to talk the bus companies into working with us, and we have to find someone who can drive a tractor-trailer. We don't have really big trucks in Taiwan."That concern was answered when John Hoyles of Elmira, N.Y., sent an e-mail to the corps in 2001. He owns his own trucking company and can set his own work schedule. A friend talked him into contacting the corps, and he's been driving their semi on their North American tours ever since. He adds, "The corps kids are very well mannered and disciplined. What one doesn't understand, another will translate. They're a great bunch to work with." Half of the corps' members have never been to America before this tour. One such member is rookie Li Hao Cheng, who plays baritone. He says, "Life in Taiwan is very fast-paced. I think Americans know how to lead a more leisurely life. I see people all over taking part in leisurely activities. I want to live like this."Li adds that the members love the sports stores; especially to shop for athletic shoes, which are quite expensive overseas. They also find great deals on electronics and digital cameras, which are also more expensive in Taiwan.Be sure to catch Taipei Yuehfu as the corps tries for its third Summer Music Games International Championship. This year, the corps is playing wind music by two contemporary Japanese composers, Yasuhide Ito and Tetsunosuke Kushida. It's an exciting program delivered with enthusiasm by dedicated members who are delighted to be here, "doing" drum corps just like the corps they've admired on the Drum Corps International videotapes.
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