My college roommates came to New Jersey this past weekend. I haven't seen Wendy since we graduated from college in May. The last time I saw Katie was in October. Either way, it's been a while, too long.
I was excited to have company, but most of all I was excited to see "The Gates" at Central Park. "The Gates" is an art installation in Central Park by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Basically, they installed 7,500 16-foot-tall rectangular gates in Central Park. Atop of each gate a block of orange fabric gently blow in the wind. There are no pictures, there are no words, just orange fabric and orange steel beams. The majesty of it all are the materials and cost that the couple compiled to install every gate. It required more than 1 million square feet of vinyl and 5,300 tons of steel, which spans 23 miles. The cost: $20 million. The installation was paid for exclusively by the artists themselves. I'll admit while I didn't think it was the most amazing work of art I had ever seen, I was in awe. It's a lot to take in and everywhere you look there's a series of gates. "The Gates" made a dreary day in the city look more like sunshine. It took time. It took patience. But most of all it took a vision and an appreciation of art. Art can be completely objective, and it's not always for everyone. Not everyone can understand why a couple used their own millions to hang orange or saffron (as it's technically named) pieces of fabric in New York City. Wendy and I both enjoy art. We thought it was pretty cool, again not the most amazing thing ever, but neat. Katie, well, she'd rather be inside the artic tundra than the Modern Museum of Art, so her review was, "It's OK, but I don't know if it's art." There are probably many people in the lives of drum corps members who don't see the art in what we do. Wendy and Katie probably will never understand what I did when I was away each summer. I've let them stick with the "professional marching band" definition. We all know that every performance is a new piece of art. My friends always ask me if we do a different show every performance. I think we would be crazy to attempt such things. But every time I do "the same show," it's different, even if no physical changes have been made. There's something new to look at for reference during performance, there's someone new to perform to. The canvas and paint may be the same every time a corps completes a work of art, but somehow the finish on top is different. There's a method to the madness of all the designers that come up with a new show every summer. Somehow, probably through a lot of intense discussions, an 11-minute work of art is created and they leave it to a bunch of 16- to 21-year -olds to actually bring it to life. Everyone has his own opinion of what "The Gates" was all about, and if spending $20 million was worth it. While I don't know Christo and Jeanne-Claude personally, I can be sure that they wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, another one of their installations is coming to Colorado. While I'm very excited for the upcoming drum corps season and the amazing things I hear about my Bluecoats, I wouldn't have aging out any other way. I wouldn't want to go back and change anything. It was all worth it. I'm thankful my art does not cost $20 million. I am thankful that not everyone understands my art, because if they did, wouldn't it all be too commercial? The sponsors would be nice to bring in additional revenue, but there's something about the clandestine nature of drum corps that makes it particularly exciting. We have our own language, we have our own rules, and we rarely like to let others in once they've left. We're our own piece of incomprehensible art. Becky Novac currently lives in Hoboken, N.J., and works for Universal McCann in New York City as an assistant media planner. She is 22 years old and a recent graduate from Penn State University where she majored in journalism and psychology. Becky marched with the Bluecoats in 2000, 2002 and 2004 as a member of the color guard.