Drum Corps International
The Tilley chronicles: The Reason to march

The Tilley chronicles: The Reason to march

by Drum Corps International

Sgt. First Class Timothy L. Tilley of the United States Army has been a regular contributor to "Fanfare," and I really look forward to hearing from him because of his insights and perspectives. We last heard from Sgt. Tilley in "Drum Corps, Freedom and Sacrifice," (July 2, 2004). Prior to that, he submitted the column for the 2003 Veterans Day, "Clapping and Screaming for Freedom," (November 7, 2003) and "Beating a Cadence of Strength," (November 15, 2002). That column remains one of the most amazing discourses on drum corps I've ever read.

Aaron Savage with Sgt. Timothy L. Tilley outside INVESO Field at Mile High during the 2004 DCI World Championships, Tilley with the delta and Savage with the dog tags (hidden).
As always, hearing from Sgt. Tilley gives me the chance to promote one of my favorite organizations, Bugles Across America. If you play soprano bugle or trumpet, I beg you to check out their Web site. There remains a critical shortage of brass players available to experience the honor of playing "Taps" for military funerals, which has led the military to utilize nauseating digital bugles that play the reverent song through a tinny speaker in the bell at the push of a button. The military establishment is not to be ridiculed for taking this action -- they had no choice. There is a pronounced lack of available bugle players in the armed services. But if more of us sign up with Bugles Across America, to be contacted in the event of a local military funeral, perhaps every deceased veteran can get the "Taps" they and their families so richly deserve. If you are an upper brass player, please go to the Bugles Across America Web site and sign up to be available to perform "Taps" at the funeral of a veteran. Bugles Across America brass players have already provided comfort to the families of many of our esteemed deceased veterans. Undoubtedly, if called and you were able to fulfill the request, you would feel great about yourself. And now, as we look towards the coming of the 2005 competition season, here are the latest thoughts on drum corps, freedom and American society from Sgt. Tilley. Time flies when you're having fun. Since my last contribution, so much has changed. But, in keeping with the tradition, as I write this I listen to Phantom Regiment's 2004 show. Hard to believe with a foot of snow on the ground and Christmas just two days away that a mere four months ago, drum and bugle corps' finest, best and brightest were performing in "my backyard" at INVESCO Field at Mile High in Denver. I say each year -- in great anticipation of listening to the past summer's drum corps -- that I won't get that excited -- control yourself! But as it always happens, I have to put the emotions on paper. I hope you don't mind if I share, because after all, memories are what connects us to the past and what motivates us in looking towards the future. Being a soldier, I've been lucky over the years to be close to DCI's finals and at least in a location where I could get a show or two in each season. As an army recruiter stationed in Deland, Fla., I was able to get down to Orlando two of the three seasons finals were there. Then being assigned here at Fort Carson, Col., gave me the awesome opportunity to attend all three days of the 2004 Division I finals week. A very good friend of mine, Rickey Savage, who also happens to have been one of my high school band directors and with whom I've written a number of marching band shows (for the Lumberton (N.C.) Marching Pirate Band), flew out for finals week with his wife, Cathy, and a friend of theirs from Tifton, Ga. Rickey's son, Aaron Savage, performed the last two seasons with Spirit of JSU. I marched with Spirit in 1988, so Aaron and I share a special bond. From the time the he first marched with Southwind up until the present, I have, no matter where in the world or what I was doing, always taken every opportunity to check scores, listen to or watch downloads of his corps, and to be in contact with the Savages about where he was and how tour was going. As most anyone who has involvement with drum and bugle corps, I have been treated to the special opportunity to watch a young man grow up in the marching world and to be a spectator in the awesome transformation that being a part of drum and bugle corps can be for someone who completely involves themselves in the activity. Aaron started his marching career with his daddy as his instructor at Tift County High School in Tifton, Ga., and marched four years with the "Tift County Blue Devil Brigade." Tifton isn't your average marching band and certainly doesn't feature the usual percussion section. For a rural southern Georgia "county" high school, they routinely march seven or eight snares, five tenors and basses and feature a full front ensemble. And they play, period. A great line with a great tradition of excellence that dates back almost 25 years of "full" lines and a great experience for all who've marched under the instruction of the "Savage." Aaron continued to follow in his father's footsteps after he graduated from high school by pursuing his education and his marching career at Jacksonville State University and the JSU Marching Southerners in Jacksonville, Ala. There can be no doubt in anyone's mind (or their ears, for that matter) that after hearing the Southerners, you know you've just been entertained by what must be one of the top collegiate marching bands in the country. And Aaron has been there with his snare on and his focus on high speed, marching in the line and fulfilling his -- and I think half of the population of Tift County, Georgia's -- dream. I suppose that every person who has an attraction to music and the marching activity can reflect fondly back to moments that at the time seemed like magic and now are THE reasons why they continue to go to shows and be a part of the wonder that is corps. I marched and heard the applause, felt the rush of excitement coming out of the tunnel to see the lights, the crowd and the other corps coming off the field. I've also been fortunate to have some rather unique experiences with a career in the Armed Forces. Any soldier that has served in our military can tell some interesting stories. I've stood on the border of East and West Germany, North and South Korea and so much more that it would take page after page and a few days to tell it all. However, nothing could prepare me for the experience that I had at DCI World quarterfinals, in the parking lot just before the show. I had the chance to visit Aaron and the rest of the Spirit corps with the Savages, just after they'd flown into Denver the day before quarterfinals. We left on Thursday afternoon for the show, had a great trip and arrived just before Spirit's busses pulled in before the show. We found Aaron and had the usual parking lot discussion about rehearsal that day -- what's the feeling of the corps -- the usual. Aaron reached under his T-shirt and pulled out his "delta." I thought about how that was such a great tradition and lamented that I'd never been able to have one actually worn by a member. I figured Aaron was just showing me, but instead of tucking the delta back under his shirt, he took it off and gave it to me. I didn't know what to say and words probably wouldn't have come then anyway. I was touched and I guess that tears can sometimes speak to you louder than any word could anyway. When I marched in 1988, the entire corps did not wear the delta. It was worn mainly by the percussionists and was made then (as now) out of the brass from a cymbal. So, as a soprano, I never got one. Now, the entire corps gets one. I had been wanting one ever since the corps proper had started wearing them, but I didn't want to just make one of my own -- it didn't seem right. What makes my delta special is to know that Aaron wore it on the field, on the bus -- at rehearsal. I suppose it is the combination of things -- it being the symbol of Spirit and the sweat and memories that it soaked up from a season on tour. The next day before semifinals, I stashed away an identification tag, or "dog tag," in my pocket and took it with me to Denver and gave it to Aaron. I wore that particular tag in Bosnia and in Korea. This was my way of showing Aaron that he was special, and to put something back where that delta had come from! I will treasure that delta more than any medal or coin, any trinket that you could ever be awarded as a soldier because of what it means. It means that I got up from the gym floor when I didn't "feel like it" and I did my job anyway. It means that I've received both the praise of an adoring crowd and the criticism of the highest level, my own, all at the same time at the same place. It means that I've learned the lessons of performing and teaching and coaching and being taught and coached, and they are lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It means that I stand as a member of a select few who have been driven by a force unexplainable, to do the unthinkable, to conquer the impossible night after night. But what it really means is that in that parking lot, on that day in August, in the year 2004, I became Aaron Savage's brother, and he mine. That bond and brotherhood, the connection that makes us family -- is the reason to march. Timothy L. Tilley
Sergeant First Class, United States Army
7th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, Col. Protocol
Member, Spirit of Atlanta, 1988
 
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 master's 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.