Drum Corps International
Working for the kids: J.W. Koester

Working for the kids: J.W. Koester

by Michael Boo

I've long been a fan of J.W. Koester, Drum Corps International's Division II & III Coordinator. I asked him to clue us in on his drum corps background. The following is his response:

J.W. Koester
I marched and aged out with the same organization, Santa Clara Vanguard. I first saw the Vanguard in 1969 at their Pacific Procession show at Spartan Stadium. I was totally wowed by what they and the other drum corps were doing on the field. That fall I joined their new "B" corps that was starting up. Although that winter we only had drummers and we didn't have any drums, we would meet every Wednesday night at a Santa Clara elementary school in the library, and we were taught by Fred Sanford. The next fall we got our first drums, the Rodgers pearl flake drums (with red heads for the snares and green heads for the single tenors) that the "A" corps had been using. Along the way we picked up horn players and a color guard, and so we were ready for our first performance ever -- the Los Altos Pet Parade in early June, 1971, on a sunny Saturday morning. Gail Royer was there to make sure we got through the parade, and surprisingly enough, we did. We did have one exciting event when we got to the end of the parade. After passing the reviewing stand, the road split into a "Y" and the color guard veered off to the right with the drum major while the drums and brass followed Gail to the left. Don't worry, we got back together at the next block. I spent 1971 and 1972 with the "B" corps, marching in parades and performing standstill gigs. I auditioned for the "A" corps percussion section in the fall of 1972. My first exposure to Bob Kalkoffen was not a good one for me. I was totally intimidated by him and I pretty much blew my audition right out of the water. However, the other instructors told me to stick around and I ended up in the SCV cymbal section in 1973. I spent another six years with SCV until I aged out in 1979. Most years I was a marching timpani player. That's right, I'm a living dinosaur! I learned many things during my time with SCV -- respect for myself and my fellow members, dedication to task, performance excellence and always doing the right thing for the right reason. It is interesting that in those days most corps members did not have a lot of marching experience coming into the activity and they were actually given the opportunity to learn as they progressed thought the year, even in the SCV "A" corps. Age-out time: YIKES! What to do? By that time I was teaching several high school drum lines and I was offered a job teaching the SCV timpani line. Of course, it was the last year SCV marched a timpani line, so the next few years, I taught the South San Francisco Conquistadores and the Modesto Valley Fever. In the early 1980s I started judging drum corps, marching bands and color guard contests. Teaching and judging gave me the opportunity to train young people how to better themselves in their performance endeavors. In late 1986, Gail Royer called, asking if I would be interested in taking over the SCV "B" corps as director. My first question was "Why me, whatever did he see in me that would be of positive value in this position?" After taking some time to think about what would be expected of me, I accepted the position and on Jan. 1, 1987, I became the director of the "B" corps. That first year was quite an experience, as I had to figure out what this director thing was all about. Developing rehearsal schedules, hiring staff, putting a show together, finding parents to cook the meals and teaching kids the SCV traditions were just a few of the new skills sets developed. One of my most memorable moments from that year was on our first trip to Southern California. At the first show we were pretty bad, taking fourth out of four corps -- by a lot. We had a good talk with the kids about what they wanted to do with their season and the next day we had a great rehearsal, finished the show and fixed a few ensemble issues. That night we had a great performance, a 180-degree turnaround from the night before, and we took first place. After the scores were announced, Gail motioned me over to where he was standing and he invited the "B" corps to watch the "A" corps play their victory concert. Gail brought our kids right in front of the "A" corps who proceeded to rip our faces off with a great victory show. What a thrilling moment for those kids -- the members they looked up to were playing for them, that was the most talked about moment for the rest of the summer. The next year we changed the "B" corps name to the Vanguard Cadets, made new uniforms and pretty much revamped the entire structure of the organization. We even traveled out of state for the first time. Over the next six years, the Cadet corps traveled to DCI twice (1991 Dallas, and 1993 Jackson, Miss.) and throughout the western states, competing in Drum Corps West events. Over the course of eight years, we "graduated" many, many kids into the "A" corps, often in mid-season when they had injury openings and countless others each fall at auditions. Teaching the kids about the traditions of the Vanguard organization and valuable teaching life skills were always the most enjoyable aspects of my tenure with Vanguard Cadets. 1995 was time to take a break from drum corps and spend it with the family, although I was still teaching, working with several high school marching bands and judging bands and winter guards. In late 1995, the SCV organization called again, they were looking to make a change in the direction that the organization was going. Again I asked, "Why me, what did they see that would want them to hire me for the position?" So after a bit of thinking "Why not me?," I accepted the job. In October 1995, I became the third director of the Santa Clara Vanguard. I again had quite a bit of work to do in a short amount of time -- hiring staff, developing a show, setting rehearsal schedules and auditions. We decided that we had to get back to the basics of being the Santa Clara Vanguard. It was an ideal time to once again take the values that I had learned and used for so many years and teach them to a new generation of SCV members. The next four years were certainly some of the most exciting and challenging of my life. Teaching the corps members respect for yourself and your fellow members, dedication to task, performance excellence and doing the right thing right was once again one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job. I also had the continued pleasure of working with the Vanguard Cadets as they developed under the direction of George Brown. Having two corps always striving to do their best, learning the traditions of the SCV organization and performing as SCV corps are expected to do was the biggest reward anyone could ask for. In 2000, I traveled with the Mandarins during their summer tour, once again teaching kids, working with them to make the most of their summer experience. In 2001 and 2002 I traveled with the Glassmen as a member of their touring management staff. I'm still judging and working with various marching bands. I'm also the business manager for the San Jose Raiders color guard organization, and now I'm working for DCI as the DCI Division II & III coordinator. It is a different role, but once again I'm working for the kids -- working to ensure that they are given the best opportunity to do their best, always! Wherever I have worked, the kids have been great -- always wanting to learn, striving to be absolutely the best they can regardless of the actual placement at the contest, learning life and social skills that they can't learn anywhere else. In my new position I work to ensure that this generation of kids will have the same opportunities that I did when I marched. The road continues to twist and turn and create new opportunities for me and that's what makes this activity called drum corps so wonderful. See you down the road. JW Koester Fanfare archives 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 masters 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.

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