If you are a parent who is hesitating about letting your kid march, or if you past the age of eligibility for DCI corps but still wish to march somewhere, the following two contributions are must reads. Maggie Walz contributed the following. Some of the responses to the article "Ten years from now" (Fanfare -- June 3, 2005) addressed the issue of parents wanting their children to work summers and "get a real job" after graduation, which means most couldn't march drum corps. As the parent of a current drum corps member, I thought I would share what happened in our family. My son, Zach, marched with the Marian Catholic High School band of Chicago Heights, Ill., all four years of high school and my husband and I were very involved in the entire experience. We volunteered with the band and followed them all around, loving it and becoming close to many members and parents. But during my son's junior year in high school, his dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer. When my son told us that he wanted to try out for the Madison Scouts and march during the summer of 2003, after high school graduation, my husband, Ken, was near the final stage of his battle with the cancer. The last thing we were thinking about was drum corps. But my husband, who was so supportive of Zach's band experience in high school, adamantly felt Zach should not march. We could not afford the fee for corps and Zach needed to work to help with college. I feel Ken was scared about me having to "sacrifice" and shoulder the financial burden of college. I also believe he felt it would be too hard for me if Zach went away that summer. Ken passed away in February of 2003. I anguished about supporting Zach in his decision and I will honestly say my fear led to Zach and I having many heated discussions about his participation. But Zach has always been motivated to work hard when he wants something and he really wanted to march. And he worked hard on convincing me! He also worked hard at finding a sponsor that helped him with the summer costs and he won a partial music scholarship to college for that fall. Finally, I told him we would try it one summer and see if we could make it. I'm not going to lie and say that it wasn't hard -- both emotionally and financially. But the rewards for him have been so numerous; I know that I can't even begin to understand them all. He has learned perseverance, patience, following directions, budgeting money, being on time, having a good work ethic, how to be a team player and, most importantly in my mind, love of what he's doing. Those were all lessons we tried to instill in him while he was growing up -- but ones that became real for him when he joined the Scouts. I know that he loves this more than anything he's done or may do. And also, I know that the drum corps filled a void in Zach during that very sad summer of 2003. Most surprising in all this are the gifts I have received, gifts that were completely unexpected. I learned how to say goodbye and let Zach go. Believe me, this made the college transition easier. I learned to let him figure out ways to make things happen that he wanted in life and how to back off, while being as supportive as possible. I learned that I love music in all forms and I will now always love drum corps. I learned that life should be lived in the moment and we should shoot for our dreams today. Tomorrow may be too late to chase those dreams. I realized that the financial fears I had were only as big as I allowed them to be. The best gift of all has been watching my son turn into the kind of man that his dad and I always dreamed he would be. This past July, I made a last-minute decision to drive to Indianapolis for the DCI Midwestern Championship. Even though I was going to Boston in a few weeks, I needed a drum corps "fix." This from the woman who hadn't a clue what drum and bugle corps was when my son first approached us about marching. I still slip occasionally and call it band. Boy, do I get it from him then! I sat in the RCA Dome and realized that I had been there almost three years earlier with my husband when we watched Zach's final performance with Marian at the BOA Grand National Championships. And as I sat there I realized how much Ken would have loved the corps. When I mentioned this to Zach afterward he said, "Mom, I thought of him the minute I walked in and placed my first flag on the field and I looked up and saw a man in a wheelchair in the stands." Then I told Zach that I was sure of one thing. If Ken had been alive, he would be using his vacation time traveling with the Scouts and volunteering just like he always did with Marian. I know today that this experience is irreplaceable to Zach and that Ken would be happy that I overrode his decision. I just want to encourage parents to see this as one of those, "I only wish I had done (fill in the blank) during my life" messages that we constantly preach to our children when we want them to do something that we missed out on. I feel the payback the kids get from their corps experience is worth so much more than many monetary things we deem important in life. I hope all parents can be as supportive as possible when their kids say, "I want to march drum corps." The final lesson that I learned out of this experience is that it's never too late to learn, even from your kids. Dave Carr contributed the following thoughts. I don't know how long you want this item to continue, but there's one more aspect of it all, and especially for the writer who wrote, in effect, "Don't find yourself in your 40s and regretting it" ("It" being having not marched in a DCI corps). Well, if you DO find yourself in your 40s and still have an itch to see if it would work, look for a senior or even alumni corps in your neighborhood. There are now at least 32 alumni corps across the country, and they may be the best and most relaxed place for a novice to try out. All comers seem to be gratefully accepted; alumni corps allow the family man or woman the ability to practice without compromise. That is, you are not a slave to the corps -- with Tuesday and Thursday practices and weekends away on a bus trips. Alumni corps have limited practices, limited appearances, far less complicated drills, usually older music and are comprised of corps fans and veterans who seem to be having the grandest time. If you are in your 40s and still want the harder competitive edge, why not try a senior corps? They, too are plentiful, and are more committed to pure excellence and achievement. Competitive? They strive for victory, and that means hard work, dedication and practice. They have good musical and visual books, and yet can still take in a novice and show him or her the ropes and fit that person into the corps. In either activity, you still have the opportunity to achieve a dream, especially if you just have a pure love of the activity. Sure, they are not one of the top DCI corps, but they are still drum corps, every one of them, and on most days, that's all they have to be.
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 master's 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.