By Steve Benz
Boston Crusaders volunteer
WOW! What a show! The Boston Crusaders' 11-and-a-half minute performance made the hair on my arms stand on end. "Those kids really can play!" I say. It obviously takes dedication, perseverance and practice to accomplish what these kids do. But sometimes, it's what you don't see that makes the difference. Things like: · 12-hour bus rides
· 8- hour practice days in 100 degree heat
· Preparing 4 meals a day for 150 people
· Consuming hundreds of gallons of water and drinks a day
· Sewing uniforms and mending flags
· Trips to the airport to pick up staff who are flying in and out
· Volunteers cooking, cleaning, and tending to boo-boos
· Drivers sleeping all day to prepare for the next night's ride
· Flat tires, broken alternators, and air conditioning on the fritz And yet somehow, the show goes on despite these logistical "challenges." I had the pleasure of touring recently with the Boston Crusaders, on their trip through Texas. The heat could have melted your shoes to the parking lot, although no one could have been standing around long enough for that to happen. No one had time to be hot. The tour directors were shuttling staff to and from airports, the cooks were preparing the next meal as the dishes from the morning meal were still being washed, volunteer staff was helping mend flags and props, and on and on. My wife had been volunteering on the road since our son Mike had joined the Crusaders in 2000. "C'mon, it will be fun," she promised. So I signed up for about a week of washing dishes, making bug juice and fixing things. I was delighted to be spending time helping the corps, as well as happy to see more of our son and the other kids too. As my wife and I arrived at the housing site in Kansas, the corps was beginning their run-through of that evening's performance. The heat in Kansas was nearly overwhelming, but it didn't seem to be slowing down the members. WOW -- what an experience, to be standing on the field when all 135 members really pour it on! I could immediately tell that this would be a great time, and that this corps was really going somewhere this year. After the show that night, we packed up and left for Leander, Texas, a mere 700-plus-mile ride. After a less-than-refreshing 12-hour nap in the back seat of a Toyota Corolla, we arrived at the next housing site and the corps started practicing. I was exhausted just watching them! With no time to dilly-dally, I had to get back to the dishes. Lunch was served, then it was back to rehearsal. Before long, I experienced the drum corps phenomena known as "Eat, Shower and Load." You have to see this ritual to believe it! Members and staff have two hours to eat dinner, clean up, and pack all their worldly possessions on the bus for the next night's ride. After the show, the members socialize well into the wee hours of the morning, many with new and old friends from other corps. Then it's onto the busses and off to the next venue. If you're lucky, the nightly trip is only a few hours long, and you can get some "floor time" when you get to the next housing site. Floor time is highly valued, you roll out your air mattress and sleeping bag and get some much-needed sleep. We got some floor time when we arrived in Houston. It seemed that my head had just hit the pillow when it was time to wake up. We were out of bread and it was time to run to the market (we needed 40 loaves of bread that day). Breakfast was prepared -- 300 pieces of French toast, 18 trays of bacon, and a few dozen bowls of cereal. All washed down with eight gallons of milk and 20 gallons of juice. As we clean up the debris from the feeding frenzy, it was time to start lunch. No rest for the weary, I suppose. While we were toiling in the kitchen, the corps began its daily routine. Sectional, visual, and ensemble rehearsals were run all in the blazing sun and intense heat. The instructional staff directed the corps to practice one portion of the show over and over again, until it was just right. "OK let's do it again from Letter J" was the mantra. And "Letter J" was repeated over and over until the staff had been satisfied. Tempers could have flared in the Texas heat, but the staff and members remained cool. Mutual respect between staff and members was evident. So, too was their dedication, talent and desire. This routine continues every day of tour. After nearly a week of this routine, I left the corps, and another volunteer came on to take my place. The instructional staff comes and goes, trying to balance their "real lives" and jobs with their "drum corps lives." One thing is constant, however -- the corps will perform nearly every night for the duration of the summer-long tour. They will strive to exceed their previous night's performance and always will practice harder the next day. So when I see the Boston Crusaders step onto the field in August for the DCI World Championships in Orlando, Fla., I will remember all the dishes that I washed, things that I fixed, and the loaves of bread I bought, and know that it was just a small part of what it takes to put that 11-and-a-half-minute show on the field. Maybe the members and staff will remember me or maybe they won't -- it doesn't matter, because I will always remember them. As hard as I worked, they worked twice as hard. As hot as I was, they were hotter. And as tired as I was, I know that they were more tired. But the Boston Crusaders are strong. They are used to the road, and excel under these conditions. And it is a pleasure to help them behind the scenes. "Bravo!" to the Boston Crusaders, and best wishes to them as they continue their travels down the road to Orlando!