Joe Smith, a frequent contributor to last year, will be contributing essays to on a regular basis starting this week. Well here I am once again writing to the general public of the drum corps community. I have just taken a much-needed vacation from writing (even though it was probably too long). But hopefully I can get back into the swing of things as I have had many experiences since the end of the drum corps summer.

Joe Smith (left) and his seat partner, Steve Beatty.
I long have dreamed to be a staff member correcting the problems of corps members, trying to help them perfect their 11-minute show, instead of being the one that gets yelled at and the one putting forth all my energy to play and march the perfect show. Well, my dream has become a semireality at this point.

After coming home from Denver on a bus, I was able to sleep in my very own bed and actually to get up when I wanted, instead of when Matt Gibson yelled, "Good Morning Colts, you have 15 minutes until cals." This was a very nice position to be in, but it truly was different. This fall I wasn't forced to go back to a marching band to cram music and drill other kids had known for a week into my head in less than two hours. Instead I was going to start turning my dream into a reality.

I was granted the chance to be a marching technician at Johnston High School in Johnston, Iowa (a suburb of Des Moines). I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had never worked with the directors, before so I didn't know what they wanted, and I had never seen the drill before.

The program was called "Riverdance," a show that many of us have at least seen once in our lifetimes. I had no idea how to teach these kids to correct their problems at first, because I had just came off tour. I was thinking more as a marching member than a staff member. Even though "Riverdance" isn't my idea of a great show to be marching, I yearned very much to be among them playing the music and marching the drill. I was already in tour withdrawal and I hadn't even been home a day. Slowly though I got the hang of being on staff and not a member of the band. I learned how the directors saw things and how they handled each situation. I started to realize just how proud staff members can be of their band and the product that the members produce.

They say you learn many life lessons in drum corps as a marching member, but I feel you also learn a lot of life lessons while being a staff member. You truly learn how to mold the finely tuned product you see at the end of the season. Everyone has their success story that they just love to share with the world, and I'm no different.

As the fall progressed, I mentally chose who the best marching members were. As the weekly rehearsals moved closer and closer to the first day of school, I didn't see much in the baritone section that look potentially great. In fact, one of the members, Laz, seemed to not even listen to what I said to him. I finally convinced him to fix his horrid bell angle and some of the mistakes he made visually. Day after day everything he did just seemed to get better and better. At the end of the season, Laz's progress alone made me feel as though I had accomplished a great feat.

During the summer you see the many expressions a staff member has, including ones of pride. On June 24, we were on a small neighborhood street warming up. We knew that our brass caption head, Aaron Bryan, would be leaving tour for a short while to take care of commitments at home. As we ran segments in full uniform, you could see the pride on Aaron's face just build. The last segment we did that night was the entire ballad of "Ol' Man River," at the request of Aaron. As the horn line built up to the hit, you could just see the joy on Aaron's face. After we played the ballad, he called us in, and as he expressed his love for us, you could see him struggling to fight back tears. This fall I learned how Aaron felt I watched the last performance of the 2004 Marching Dragons.

This fall I learned a lot and realized an even bigger dream of mine -- to become a visual tech after I age out in 2007. I also gained a new appreciation for the marching band activity. That is why I will spend this weekend in Indianapolis watching BOA's semifinalist bands at the RCA Dome.

So until next week when I am back from Indy have a wonderful week.