Drum Corps International
The Essence of drum corps: More love of Jim Jones

The Essence of drum corps: More love of Jim Jones

by Michael Boo


Jim Jones
The third-ever installment of "Fanfare" (Sept. 13, 2002) was about legendary Troopers founder and director Jim Jones. This generated so much feedback that another column (Oct. 11, 2002) was written about the man. Later, I received three more e-mails about Mr. Jones, each in its own way gently prodding me to once again visit the legend that walked amongst us. Kevin Williams played baritone for the Troopers in the early 1980s, remembering, "At that time, Mr. Jones was quite active in the day-to-day operations of the corps. My first personal encounter with Mr. Jones (nobody ever called him Jim) crystallized my perception of the entire activity, and the paradigm exists even until today. We were at one of the winter camps in Laramie, Wyo., learning the opener for 1981, 'The Cowboys.' For some reason, I ended up in the 'cat-walk,' where Mr. Jones would stand and clean drill. I think he was rehearsing sopranos at the time. "No Dr. Beat, no metronome, no field ranger; just Mr. Jones bellowing out directions. I was standing by him while he was barking commands out to the 'Kimbie Squad,' (rookies, or those who act like rookies), when he became very upset about a portion of the drill. As I recall, two arcs were rotating across the field with one arc being in front of the other. The rotation of the back arc was occurring more quickly than the rotation of the front arc, and it caused the whole formation to lack the feel he wanted. He stated his case to me and I nodded in full agreement, in awe at how quickly he saw the problem. "He proceeded to look me squarely in the eye for the next five minutes and state why such issues were important, and cut to the very fabric of the essence of drum corps; striving to be the best you can be. He spent the following ten minutes explaining how the same principles lay the foundation for a successful life. The whole time the drill rehearsal was going on in the background -- and he took that time out to speak to me directly. "Mr. Jones continues to stand as an icon that goes well beyond the activity, and, in many ways, represents why the essence of drum corps is bigger than the activity itself." Jon VanZandt marched in Troopers' snare line in 1979, 1980 and 1981. He came to the corps from Santa Clara Vanguard, where he had marched for most of the mid-1970s. He had made friends with several other corps members across the country. Every few months, he would talk on the phone to a snare drummer from Troopers, and then hook up with him on summer tour. In the last spring of 1979, Jon needed a rest from the extreme competition unit that SCV was renown to be, and so he quit. A few days later, his Troopers friend called him to ask how Vanguard was doing. When Jon told him he had quit, his friend tried talking him into coming to Casper, Wyo. (the Troopers' hometown), to fill a snare spot. Jon remembers, "I laughed at the thought of this California surfer kid living in Wyoming -- leaving a first-place corps and going to a 20th-place corps. Leaving a corps where the average age was 20 and going to a corps where the average age was 16 sounded too strange. We hung up after I wished the Troops' a good summer. "That night, I received a second call. The caller told me his name was Jim Jones. We talked for several hours about his love/hate relationship with Gail Royer (SCV director), and the fact that the Troopers were run like a family. He invited me to come out and see what they were all about. A few days later I found myself in my 1963 Chevy, driving east on I-80. When I arrived in Casper, I called Mr. Jones. He invited me to come to his home. (Yes, I also spent a great deal of time in the famous hidden library room!) The next day, we were off to Laramie for a weekend camp. "The camp was a shock. The corps was working late into the night. We were in a dirty rodeo field house. It was about 1 a.m. Mr. Jones was way up in the rafters yelling out to the horn line that he wanted more of an arc, like a 'teapot.' The kids were exhausted and the staff was burned out on the marathon drill lessons. I then raised my hand to ask Mr. Jones a question. "When he called on me, I asked him, 'Is this where we do the Bottle Dance?' You could have heard a pin drop. After a minute, or so, Mr. Jones replied, 'Yes -- only for you.' The entire corps bust out in laughter, and a life-long friendship was born. "The only memories I have of the 1979 show was when I walked up to play the timpani solo in the concert number. Halfway through the number, I looked right at Mr. Jones. He had on this wide smile that touched me down to my toes. You could tell that he was the happiest person on Earth at that time. I spent the next three years as a Trooper. After aging out, at the advice of Mr. Jones, I went into the Army. When that was over, I moved to Denver to teach the Blue Knights (as did several other Troopers). "I kept in touch with Mr. Jones up until his death. He often told me that drumming -- and drum corps -- was a way to have fun doing something that you enjoy. He used to say that teaching is a way of passing on all the things someone else had taught you. I took his advice. Over the years I have taught hundreds of high school drummers. Each line I have taught learned the same exercises that Mr. Jones and I drummed during my years in Trooper Land. (He was fond of the old W.F. Ludwig solos and would capture any drummer to play them with him.) "Mr. Jones ran the Troopers like a family. He involved everyone in the day-to-day operations of the corps. He had a way of getting you to 'think outside the box,' to come up with different things to do on the field. He could get you to work harder than you ever thought was possible. He was a friend to everyone. He was also someone that was quick to get on you when you were being lazy. "As the years go by, and as I get older, I think of him often. Every time I pass a Dairy Queen, I think of the 'Mr. Misty' he would send me for after every rehearsal. When I pick up an old Ludwig snare book, he again appears in my thoughts. For over 15 years now, I have been a Deputy Sheriff in a busy part of the Denver area. Every day I see horrible acts of violence. Shootings, stabbings, drug labs, and people in trouble are part of the normal day around here. I often wish I could put this job aside, and once again strap on a snare drum. "Thank you, Mr. Jones. You developed in hundreds of kids the attitude to help others. I only wish there were more people like you around. Kids today sure could use it! "When you ask about the 1979 DCI Worlds prelim show, the only thing I can say is that when a corps cares so much for their director, great things can happen. If you were there, you saw this firsthand!" Al Donelson marched Troopers in 1981, coming out of the same Colorado high school as Kevin Williams. When he was introduced to Mr. Jones, Kevin told him that he had never played a bugle before. He then received a half-hour-long verbal dissertation on the difference between a bugle and a tuba. Al says, "He had an incredible memory and could remember someone if they walked up to him years later. I was at a restaurant in the Denver area, 12 years after I marched, having dinner with my family. Mr. and Mrs. Jones walked by and saw me and stopped to talk to us. He remembered me by name and horn and years marched and high school. Amazing, since the last time I saw him was about three years after I marched, at Drums Along The Rockies in Denver. He sums up everything anyone has ever said about Mr. Jones, stating, "Jim Jones was not only Troopers' director, he WAS the Troopers. 'Honor, Loyalty and Dedication' are paramount in life and in anything we do. Jim Jones was dedicated to that motto. He really believed in it and was the epitome of 'Honor, Loyalty and Dedication.' I am proud to have been a Trooper and to have marched under Jim Jones. 'Once A Trooper, Always A Trooper.'" Calling all readers -- What corps-to-corps gifts do you remember? Please share your memories with us for consideration in a future "Fanfare" column at www.dci.org. Also: What corps-to-corps tributes/honors do you remember? Please send your contribution to Michael Boo at boomike@aol.com. Please put "Corps-to-corps" in the Subject heading at the top of your e-mail. Please include your name, hometown, corps affiliation (if applicable) and years marching with or working with the corps (if applicable). No anonymous comments, please. You will be credited for your contribution. 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 masters 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.

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