Andy Dittrich, who wrote a series of columns for us in 2004 and into last summer, will be exploring how drum corps folks stay focused and conditioned in the off-season in a new series of articles. This week Dittrich tells us how he stays conditioned during the winter months. This fall, I want to know what we do in the off-season. This takes research. I have sent the following set of questions to a number of drum corps veterans of different levels of experience, as well as various staff members, looking for their opinions on what a drum corps off-season should be. I encourage all who read this to answer these questions and email them to me at What I will be spending time doing is comparing ideas, and writing on my own, exploring what a drum corps person does on his or her "winter vacation." In the first installment of this new column, I have answered my own questions.

Andy Dittrich encourages lots of water.
What techniques do you find to be best effective in maintaining personal musical growth in the off-season? I have found that performing in some other ensembles, whether they be marching or concert ensembles, helps to maintain my experience performing, and help me to continue to grow as a musician. More recently, I find that it is important to take time to reflect on all that I have learned over the summer, and analyze what I did right and wrong, to come back the next summer with those things fixed. Did you perform in high school or college marching bands during your off-seasons? Did you find that performing with these groups helped you in maintaining or building on the things you learned and perfected during the summer? Why? I have performed with my high school and college bands. I think both were effective in keeping my hands going in the off-season, and although both used very different techniques, both have helped reinforce the things I learn during the summer. Did you, or do you currently, teach high school or college marching band during your off-seasons? Do you find that instructing or writing helps you maintain or build on the things you have learned and perfected during the summer? Why? I have taught high school marching band. I think instructing also reinforces the things we learn during our summers by making us repeat them to someone else. It also forces us to gain a better understanding of what we are being told every day, so we can explain it to someone else, every day. Do you recommend any specific exercises for drum corps veterans during the off-season? Stay active, don't drink too much soda. Do you believe that drum corps should encompass a large part of a veteran's life during the off-season? What do you think about winter camps? What do you think about preparation between winter camps? I would say drum corps is an important part of our lives at all times, but not so much in an active sense. The things we learn as musicians will come up, but more often, the things we learn about our everyday lives will be more important. I think it should not be so encompassing, however. We do spend three months doing it, constantly. A break is nice. I think winter camps are a necessary evil, that can be a turn-off to drum corps. They are necessary for the things we learn, and fun, since we get to hang out with all of our friends, but they take even more time out of our daily lives, which we put on hold for three months each year. However, I do believe that camps are necessary. Preparation between camps is important, and should be handled seriously, to make sure that the camps can be as painless as possible. The most important thing about this series of articles will be to find out what drum corps really means. Sure, everyone knows that we go off on the road for three months and it's hard and hot outside and the show is awesome and, whoa, nice snare break, and someone dropped in the first left diddle, and check out the trumpet intonation. But the most important part about drum corps is in what we learn and how we treat our time off, since that is the other nine months of our lives. I cannot wait to find out what you think!