Hopefully by now, you've done your research, and you're getting close to deciding which drum corps you want to audition with. Time for step two: Preparing for audition camp.
Once you've decided where you're auditioning, your first act should be to find out when the audition camp is. Most corps hold the first camp on the weekend immediately following Thanksgiving (this year, Nov. 25-27); a few go the week before or the week after. If your chosen corps is one that holds camp on the holiday weekend, be aware that you may have to negotiate somewhat with your parents, who tend to think of these family holidays as inviolable times not to be interrupted by mundane extracurricular activities. And here, a piece of advice from someone who's waged -- and won -- a few of these battles: Don't argue, don't fight, but rather ask nicely, wheedle outrageously, and promise to take out the trash every day for a week -- that ought to do the trick! It's also useful to look at the corps' entire camp schedule along with the schedules of other activities you may be involved in, such as winter drum line or color guard, concert band festivals, winter sports, etc.; if you're offered a spot immediately, or will have a conflict with the second camp, you'll want to be able to inform the instructional staff and work out an alternative to being at camp. Once you know when camp is, you have to figure out how to get there. If you're close by and you're old enough, you may get to drive yourself, or ride with a friend or your parents. If you're far enough away, you may need to fly, in which case you want to get your ticket early on; Friday after Thanksgiving is a busy travel day, and the cheapest airline tickets will go quickly. Also be aware that the price of tickets booked inside of two weeks of your travel date go up in price dramatically compared to tickets booked at least two weeks in advance of travel. Mom and Dad are a lot less likely to want to pay for a plane ticket to camp when it costs $450 because you weren't on top of your game. If you do plan to fly, be sure to check your corps' policy on airport pickups, and send them your name, your airline and flight number, the airport you're flying into (some metro areas have more than one), and your cell phone number. On the day you fly to camp, be sure to keep the main office updated if you get delayed along your way -- few things are worse than driving to the Detroit airport on a snowy night for a late pickup and not being able to find the auditionee because s/he didn't send a phone number and didn't call to say s/he had been delayed and would be arriving late. It's not a good way to start your relationship with a drum corps; I speak from experience here. If you live a moderate distance away from the camp location but don't have a ride and can't drive yourself (and/or can't afford to fly), contact the camp office; many corps will put potential members in contact with vets or other auditionees that live in the same area or that may be driving along the same path. Don't let lack of transportation get in the way of your going to camp -- most corps will help you work out a way to get there. Don't forget Greyhound and Amtrak as other transportation opportunities, and send the office your arrival information and delays, etc., for these just like you would for a flight. Some of the following next steps will vary widely from corps to corps, so make sure you read the fine print to follow your corps' procedures exactly. The final step in this process is actually to register for camp! Check your corps' Web site; you can usually download the registration forms, and sometimes even fill them out online and e-mail them, or print them off and mail them in. The registration forms will generally ask for the usual biographical information, some information on your experience in the pageantry arts, and emergency medical information. Fill it all out and send it in beforehand, along with your registration fee; it will save you a lot of work your first night at camp, and makes life a lot easier for the corps staff. In return you'll get an audition packet, containing a welcome letter, some information on the first camp, and -- most importantly -- a set of exercises to learn ahead of time, which will be a huge help to you in your audition preparation. Additionally, it lets the corps management staff know how many people to expect and so how much food to order, exercises to photocopy, etc. It also means that your first night at camp, you can get to know the other folks there instead of standing in a long line, waiting to fill out paperwork! A note on medical forms: Many auditionees don't take the medical form seriously, thinking "No way will I get sick at audition camp!", and forget to bring insurance information to camp with them. However, accidents do happen and any time hundreds of people are living in close proximity, the potential for exposure to unusual illnesses exists. I made the first hospital run of last year's season during November camp -- so yes, in fact, you can get sick at audition camp. Moral of the story: Fill out your forms (most corps won't let you start rehearsal till you do anyway). And take your insurance card, or a copy of your parents' card if you don't have your own. These are all things that you can, and should, get done early on -- and many of you have probably already done them. The sooner you're all set to go to audition camp with your dream corps, the sooner you can get down to the serious work: practice, practice, practice! And you'll have the peace of mind of knowing that nothing extraneous can get in the way of your audition experience. Emily Tannert is a sophomore music education/percussion performance major at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University. Emily aged out of the Glassmen in 2003 and was assistant tour manager for the corps in 2004 and 2005. You can contact Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.