The Waterkotte family has got to have interesting dinner table conversations during the holidays, being that three of their four children have marched in three different drum corps. Son Eric marched Glassmen his age-out year, James marched Madison Scouts two years and now youngest sister Alison is in her second year with Santa Clara Vanguard, after marching three years with Vanguard Cadets.
The family is from Tempe, Ariz., where local corps are awaiting development. Glenn, the father, is part of the parent movement in the state that is attempting to build a base for local corps in the state for kids that can't afford to leave home for the summer. Barb, the mother, reflects on "how ignorant we were of the whole drum corps scene back when Eric marched in 1995. We were so clueless about what he was doing. We didn't even make it to finals that year, which has always bothered me, since seeing first-hand, what a BIG DEAL it really is, especially for age-outs." She's made up for that oversight since, though, commenting, "I even went on tour with SCV for 10 days last season, working on the food truck, feeding 135 kids four meals a day. Wow, I really got to see the behind-the-scenes of running a corps. And then there's the kids ... my heroes!)" Let's hear from the Waterkotte's own kids in the order that they have marched. Eric and James Waterkotte first marched with Arizona Sun in 1992, a budding young Division II corps. James was only 14 at the time, playing soprano while Eric marched snare. Eric remembers it as "an awesome experience for the two of us to share." However, he faced a dilemma in 1995, his age-out year, one unlike any he had ever faced. According to Eric, "The dilemma was: Should I try out for my dream corps, the Santa Clara Vanguard, or forgo my dream of marching a top-12 snare line and instead be loyal to the Arizona Sun, as they were preparing to field a corps again after taking a few seasons off? "I decided to be loyal to the hometown corps and started the season with Sun. Lo and behold, at the opening meeting of the Memorial Day camp, we got the bad news from the corps director that touring wasn't going to happen. I was totally bummed out, thinking that I wasn't even going to get to march my age-out year. "In the midst of my depression and frustration, my great friend Everett Perez started looking for available snare line spots throughout DCI. I was pretty pessimistic knowing that the chances of us finding a snare line with two openings this late in the season was nearly impossible, not to mention finding two openings in a top-12 snare line. "Amazingly, the Glassmen had recently lost a couple snare drummers to another corps and the staff was willing to hear us play. We both talked to the caption head over the phone and he invited us to come out to Toledo, Ohio, ASAP. We hopped a flight as soon as we could and ended up fulfilling the ultimate dream for me that summer. "I will never forget the miraculous nature of our situation and how, despite the odds, it all worked out just as I had dreamed, through a stroke of amazing good fortune, friends and luck. "What was the sibling rivalry like? For me, there was really never a sibling rivalry between my brother and sister because I was simply proud that they chose to pursue the goal of marching drum corps. I did encourage my brother James to give the Glassmen a try and he did go out to Toledo to audition in 1996. However, he decided not to march that season. "I feel somewhat responsible for planting the seeds both with James and Alison, regarding which corps they ended up marching. After touring pretty much in parallel with Madison Scouts in 1995 as a member of Glassmen, I told my brother how much I admired their philosophy and approach to dealing with corps members. After meeting some Madison Scouts members in college at the University of Oklahoma, he ended up heading to Madison in the fall of 1997 to audition. "As for Alison, I remember trying to help her explore her interest in DCI as a young high school student. In 1992, Arizona Sun competed heavily with the Vanguard Cadets, and so I recommended she look into Vanguard Cadets as a great place to start. She seemed to fit right in with the corps philosophy and marched three years with the cadet corps, moved on to marched the Vanguard "A" corps in 2002 and is returning to march SCV in 2003. "I do recall a slight rivalry between James and Alison in 1998 and 1999 when they were both marching different corps, mostly because they individually associated themselves with two drastically different corps philosophies that were each driven by a lot of passion. Even at its worst, I would classify it as a constructive, supportive and friendly sibling rivalry. "What is the moral here? "The deal is this: When you grow up in a state with a highly competitive high school marching band circuit, you are constantly looking to DCI as the 'higher level.' It was only natural for all of us to dream of marching drum corps. Everyone who pursues the activity to the extent to which we did has a firm commitment to the drum corps life. "Whether it requires you to move to another state, country or continent to fulfill your dream, those with passion and drive to achieve a goal will not stop until they have achieved it. When friends or siblings march with different corps, rivalries inevitably form. However, the rivalries I experienced in my family were much like the rivalries between corps members of competing corps on tour in that they were always backed by a deep respect for any individual participating in the activity." James Waterkotte reflects on playing a two-valve soprano as a 14-year-old as "ah, the good old days," stating, "The reason for us marching together was the proximity to Arizona Sun and the fact that we were still quite young. I wanted to march after that summer, but Arizona Sun had gone inactive. So all through high school, I didn't march corps. But every summer I was wishing I was on the road. "My brother ended up marching with the Glassmen in 1995. I went out to Oklahoma for college and met some people who were marching with various corps. I began to feel the need to march again and decided to march in 1998. Since it was my age-out year, I thought 'it's now or never.' "I decided to march with Madison Scouts because the corps has always been a brass powerhouse. I made the Scouts mellophone line and instantly fell in love with the sound of my new instrument and the sound of the horn line. I also found out that I had another summer of eligibility. "So, I ended up marching 1999 as well. My little sister followed my brother and I through our years of drum corps and decided that she wanted to march with the Vanguard Cadets in 1999. I was only able to see her perform a few times, but I was really proud of her. I knew she would continue the legacy. "I will never forget how my corps life ended ... moving the cross form into the star in 'Jesus Christ, Superstar.' I got chills every night, but even more so on our home field ... it was all for the crowd! I really enjoyed marching for the Scouts, making many life-long friends whom I talk to regularly. After everything is said and done, my brother and I are still so close ... we still like living together ... in Seattle now. And my little sister is still marching!" That only leaves Alison Waterkotte. She remembers when Eric and James were in Arizona Sun, stating, "Those days are honestly some of my most vivid memories of my childhood. I remember going to a show in Phoenix and watching the show (that year their show was 'Hook' and I loved that the color guard used hooks as their props). "As I was 9 years old, I was a bit too young to truly appreciate the activity, but enthusiastic enough to develop an interest in it. While I was growing up my brothers inundated our house with drum corps videos. Sometimes I would roll my eyes and say, 'Oh, they're at it again,' but pretty soon I started watching, too. It was then that I learned to play French horn (modeling after my brothers' instrumental talent). "I first wanted to play drums (like Eric), then trumpet (like James), but I finally settled on French horn/mellophone. I will never forget the day that I mentioned to Eric that I wanted to do drum corps. I was a freshman in high school and I just made an off-handed comment to Eric that 'one day' I would like to do it. He looked at me excitedly and asked, 'Why not this summer?!' Since I completely adore him and saw the excited and proud look in his face, I said 'sure.' I was still clueless as to what I was really getting myself into! "He suggested Vanguard Cadets, I flew out for my first camp, and it hit me. It was the hardest weekend of my life to that point and I never will forget it. I came home crying and told Eric how hard it was, but he told me to keep going back, and I did. Every camp it was the same thing, and Eric kept telling me to keep going back, which I did. "Summer of 1998 came around and I moved out to California. My mother came with me since I was pretty young and completely scared. She was there for two weeks and it was awesome to have her support. That summer I fell in love with this activity and the Vanguard organization. Through the hard days of the summer I would imagine Eric and James watching me from the sidelines. Just the thought of them made me work harder and push myself. "From that summer on, I've aspired to be in SCV. The tradition and family I feel there is something I could never leave. Vanguard is what made me fall in love with the activity and their philosophy is one that really fits me as a person. It is definitely where I was meant to be. I was in Vanguard Cadets for three years, honestly, because I felt I wasn't ready to be in the 'A' corps, which was (and is still) so revered in my eyes that I wanted to be the best I could be. "I never even auditioned for 'A' corps until 2002, when I made it and fulfilled my dream. I still have two more summers left before I age out and am planning on marching them both. Every day I am there I am thankful not only for the chance to be marching my heart out, but am also thankful for the people who inspired me to be there ... my brothers. "As for the sibling rivalry, I never really felt any. I am always rooting for our three corps, no matter what. I am not that competitive by nature, and I am not in this activity to compete. That may seem odd, being in such fierce competition as we are, but I've never been about the scores or the competition. I'm in it for myself and for the family on the field marching with me. Thus, I am so proud, inspired and in awe of my brothers, not in competition with them. Furthermore, I get extremely excited when their respective corps do well on the field! "Each of us ultimately went to a corps that fit us. My brothers and I are alike in our passion, but we have our own unique gifts. The corps we went to, although different, truly embraced those individual gifts, and thus we embraced those corps. It ultimately comes down to the profound respect and bond we all share through these experiences. Even though we didn't march the same corps, we have a bond through the wonderful experience that is drum corps. "I look up to my brothers in many ways, and following in their footsteps with respect to drum corps is just one of those ways. I cannot express enough how much of an inspiration they are to me. Every time it gets hard, I think of them cheering me on from the sidelines. In my heart, they are always there, during rehearsals and performances. "I am the person I am today because of my drum corps experiences and I honestly have them to thank for showing me the way. I still call Eric after every camp and tell him about it, usually before I'm even home ... only now he doesn't have to convince me to keep pushing! "The one thing we cannot leave unmentioned is the undying support of our parents and our older sister, Cheryl. We have all three of them to thank for always being so supportive of our drum corps experience! Our parents paid for our drum corps travels to other parts of the country and they came to see us in hot places in the middle of August, and Cheryl came to shows when she could. "Our family is truly blessed to have each other and share such a bond. They are incredible. There is simply no other way to say it." View the Fanfare archives
James, Alison and Eric Waterkotte