Drum Corps International
The DCI.org interview: Eric Wheeler, Southwind lead mellophone

The DCI.org interview: Eric Wheeler, Southwind lead mellophone

by Drum Corps International

Name, age, hometown: Eric Wheeler, 20, and I went to high school in Enid, Okla. What corps are you in and what is your role this summer? This year, I will be marching with Southwind for my third year and will be marching lead mellophone. Give us your full drum corps/marching music background. I started out marching in junior high in the historic tri-state parade. In high school, I marched in the Enid high band playing trumpet, where I was section leader my senior year. I was also in the jazz band in junior high and high school. I have marched two summers with Southwind and plan on marching with them for another two years. I am currently in the band and jazz band at Northwestern Oklahoma State.

Eric Wheeler
How did you decide to be a member of your corps? I had actually tried out for the Madison Scouts that in the winter of my first season and was a little too nervous to perform well; so I did not make it there. Southwind was a part of the same organization at the time, so I became aware of Southwind by auditioning for the Scouts. After I graduated from high school, I noticed on their Web site that Southwind still had a mellophone spot open, so I sent them an audition tape via FedEx and two days later I was flying off to Kentucky to begin everydays. What first attracted you to the drum corps activity? My band director in high school was the one who turned me on to drum corps. I use to watch some of his old drum corps videos after school and I really developed a love for the activity. I saw my first show as a senior when our school sponsored a DCI contest in Enid. When I finally saw a live drum corps show, I knew that it was something I had to be a part of. What advice would you give to young people who want to march? You just have to go out there and do it. Living in Oklahoma, it can be hard for young people to become aware of the activity and once they do, they realize that the closest Division I corps are at least 12 hours away. I was the only person from my hometown that even auditioned for a drum corps, so I had very little support for doing it (with the exception of my band directors). I didn't know if I could afford it nor did I know if was going to be able to attend all of the off-season camps, but of course, I figured out ways to come up with money and transportation. After my first summer tour, I really became passionate about drum corps and have made many sacrifices to be in the activity. So, for those of you that don't want to give up your summer job, take it from me, I quit my job and ended up having the greatest summer of my life and learned so much more than I ever would have working at a supermarket. Do you have any favorite road anecdotes? "Fight Night" on the drum bus is always on of my favorite nights on the road. During "Fight Night," two guys or girls will beat each other with their pillows in a boxing-style fight. We usually do three two-minute rounds and a group of three or four judges decide the winner of the fight. Last year on tour, one of the fights got out of control and almost everyone on the bus was involved in a pillow fight. We had the music cranked up and everyone was going nuts. The last good book I read: "The Alchemist," I'm working on "The Inner Game of Tennis" to help me out mentally for marching. Where I go to school and what I'm studying, if applicable: I go to Northwestern Oklahoma State University and I am currently a sophomore studying mass communications. Jobs I have/have had: Nothing big, just the usual grocery store or factory job.
Three CDs I'd want on a deserted island: 1.        Weezer, "Green Album"
2.        Jimi Hendrix, "Are you Experienced"
3.        Ben Folds Five My favorite TV show: "Seinfeld," "Family Guy" Favorite performers: Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, Bob Dylan How do you "blow off steam?" Go for a long run or workout. What has been your formative drum corps moment? Finally realizing that holding my horn up really is just "mind over matter." Best drum corps show ever: Hummmm. I'll give you three: 1995 Scouts, 1997 Blue Devils and 2002 Cavilers What are you most looking forward to about the summer? Having no worries except learning the show and just kicking back on the bus and watching "Family Guy" all night. Best thing about being in a drum corps: Traveling all over the country for the summer and meeting hundreds of new people. Worst thing about being in a drum corps: Staying at a school that only has two showerheads for 100 men and that showerhead having weak water pressure with cold water coming out of it. During tour, the best part of the day is: Morning stretch followed by breakfast. During tour, the worst part of the day is: Cleaning the school. Favorite drum corps personality and why: That girl that marched Blue Devils guard and does the interviews for the PBS broadcasts now (Jessica Allen). She's hot. What I want to be when I "grow up": Still trying to figure that out, however, I am looking into radio or television broadcasting, maybe even a news writer.

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