Britt Panuska is a sophomore business administration/music double major at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. This past summer she marched her second season with Colts, but ran into a major obstacle -- one that she was able to survive with some help from her corpsmates. This past summer was my third summer in drum corps and my second with the Colts. I loved watching the activity when I was growing up -- the first show I saw being Thunder of Drums in Mankato, Minn., when I was in middle school. I knew I wanted to march someday. Thanks to my high school band director, Dave Haugh, a former member of both the Madison Scouts and the Govenaires of St. Peter, Minn., I was able to make the connections I needed to march. While serving my high school marching band as a drum major, I also took the summer of 2003 to march with the Govenaires.

Britt Panuska and her father
I loved marching with the Govies, but I still dreamed of marching junior corps -- maybe in college. That way I could take the summer after graduation and do all the things I never got to experience due to being in the high school marching band. I laugh about that now. I will never forget the moment I decided I really could do this drum corps thing, and that it DIDN'T have to be after I went to college. That was at the DCI show in DeKalb, Ill. I was in awe of all the Division I junior corps before my eyes: The Crossmen, Glassmen, Carolina Crown, just to name a few. It was my life goal -- practically an obsession of mine -- to march junior drum corps. That fall I sent in some applications to my corps of choice. I became a member of the 2004 Colts baritone line. That was an experience I will never forget. I cried when I found out that I had made it, that I would live my dream. To me that was more important than going to college or doing anything else with my life at that time. My first summer with the Colts was amazing, and I couldn't wait for the new season to start. It seems that mid-October is the time I hit real drum corps withdrawal. It happened last year, and here it is again. I listened to our corps song the other night, trying to take in all that I could from the summer, only wishing I could be on a football field under the lights with my corps, my family. As badly as I wanted that, there is nothing that could replace the hurt and frustration I felt standing on the sideline this past summer. On a Friday about a week after the everyday rehearsals, affectionately referred to in the Colts as "cornfield tour," I started to feel a cold coming on. I felt a little feverish and my throat was sore. It didn't help that it was the hottest weather we'd been in all summer, and to top it off, we were rehearsing on turf, which added another 10-plus degrees. It wasn't going to keep me off the field though; I'd have to be REALLY sick before that would happen. The next few days progressed, and so did my "cold." I got worse and reluctantly took a couple rehearsals to try to sleep away the cold. That next Tuesday night, at a rest stop on the way to Michigan, I woke up with a throbbing pain in my left ear. A few hours later we arrived at our housing site and I went to the emergency room. The doctor said it was just an outer ear infection and made no mention of the rest of my symptoms. When I woke up the next morning, the other ear had become infected. I couldn't hear and I felt much worse. A few more days passed, and nothing seemed to change. My corpsmates asked me how I was feeling. It broke my heart and theirs to tell them, "No change." One night I couldn't take it anymore. I'd been inside for too long, and the rule is that if you're sick you shouldn't go outside -- especially to watch the final run-through. But I needed something to restore my hope. So I stuffed cotton in my ears to keep the wind out and made the long walk out to the field. The sun was setting in bright pinks and oranges. It was a beautiful backdrop to watch an even more beautiful performance. I tried to be discreet, knowing that I probably shouldn't be outside. It failed, as I was spotted by many members as they set up for a run-through. "Britt, are you better?" "This one's for you, babe!" "I'm playing for you tonight!" Those were many of the comments directed my way, and I couldn't help but smile. My ears were still plugged, so I had trouble hearing, and the corps sounded like it was on a computerized MIDI file in my ears. I also had one of the opening solos in the show, and I hummed it to myself as those brief seconds went by with it missing from the ensemble. I watched my hole throughout the show -- if only I could have run out there and filled it. I watched the show in amazement -- as it came to the reprise in the last 45 seconds of the show, all I could do was cry. All I wanted was to be on the field with them. This was my corps, my show. But I was on the sideline. I was reminded how much I love this activity, and yet how indescribable it really is. How does one explain a feeling so strong, or convey how much it hurt to be where I was standing that very night? I'd like to tell you I was back on the field the next day, however, things got worse before they got better. On Friday, feeling slightly better, I pulled off a performance in Normal, Ill. It took a toll on me and I was back on the bus trying to get better. The next day we were in Dubuque for a symphony concert -- a chance for us to give back to Dubuque for the community's support. I, however, was at the hospital getting tested for mono and strep throat and different medicine (since what I was taking did not work up to this point). It was somewhat reassuring that most people there knew what drum corps was. But again, I was told I had an outer ear infection, with no mention of my symptoms except a slight fever -- which I was told would "go away." I went back to the school and found myself at a fork in the road. I had been sick for a week and a day and had only gotten worse. I had the opportunity to go home, four hours away, to see my real doctor. There weren't any competitions for the next few days as it was the Saturday and Sunday rehearsal days prior to Monday, July 4, when we would be performing in parades. Soon we'd be so far away from home that I wouldn't be able to have the opportunity to visit my doctor. Before a nap, I decided that I would get better in the next few days and seeing my real doctor wouldn't be necessary. After my nap, I called home, rethought thing and changed my mind, and then tracked down the staff and director Greg Orwoll to discuss my decision. I headed home to southern Minnesota on Saturday night. Saying goodbye to my drum corps family -- even for a few days -- was like ripping my heart out and stomping on it. I felt like this illness -- whatever it was -- was pulling me away from those people and the activity I loved dearly. When I got home, my fever worsened and I could barely get out of bed. I went to the doctor, only to find out that the medicine I was taking was actually making me worse. I was finally give the right prescription, and told to rest until I got better. A week later, July 10, I joined tour again. The Colts were rehearsing in Des Moines, Iowa. My hearing was still not back to normal, and I was fairly weak. A friend drove me down and I arrived shortly before lunch. I was greeted with hugs from many of the cooks. Suddenly, the horn line came around the corner. "Britt's back!" I got sweaty hugs from all sides and was back on the field that afternoon. The first show I performed in was in Ankeny, Iowa. I was blessed to have my dad, brother, and grandpa in the audience, along with many friends from home and school. The biggest blessing was being able to put on my uniform again, to be on the field under the lights, and standing next to some of the most amazing people in the world -- people who overcame adversity every day while working towards a common goal; to perform, to entertain, to be the best we could possibly be, with no exceptions, no regrets, and the power to "Believe."
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.