Monday, December 31, 2007

This Thing Called Drum Corps--Part 1

It is the final day of 2007, and I could not let it pass away into the early morning hours of 2008 without writing something, how ever short it might be, about a summer 15 years ago, and what I did that sill marks me today.

In the summer of 1992, at the age of 19, I marched a corps. Translated, this means that I was in a drum and bugle corps called Sky Ryders. I played the mellophone bugle. It was the most concentrated and impactful experience of my life, and I alternately hated it and loved it, depending on how out of breath or sleep-deprived I was at any given moment.

That summer would be the first and last time I would march, as the expense associated with it combined with a summer's lost income, was more than I could handle, having to pay for college myself.

I had first learned of drum corps by happening across the televised DCI (Drum Corps International) finals competition on PBS a couple years prior, when I was still in high school. I was struck by how good the performances were. As I listened to the commentary between the performances, I learned that these folks were just kids, really. Once a person reaches age 22, he/she can no longer participate. And so, these amazing groups of people were made up of teenagers and college kids. Unbelievable. I wondered how they could be so good. At that point I had no thought of ever being good enough to score a spot in a corps, and I still didn't know enough about them to know how to even start the audition process, anyway.

And then I went to college--the University of North Texas, which has an amazing music program. I was in marching band, and there I met several members of the drumline as well as several trumpet and trombone players who had marched corps before, some had even marched for 6 or 7 years already. Many of them had just returned from finals and went straight into marching band rehearsals. I listened to them talk. I learned they had marched in Cavaliers, Madison Scouts, Blue Devils, Blue Knights, and even Sky Ryders. I began to learn which shows/programs a particular corps had performed in which year. I began to learn I simply must be a part of this amazing experience they were all talking about.

And yet I still didn't know enough or have enough money or enough self-confidence to decide to audition for one of the perpetually finals-bound corps. And I couldn't audition for the Cavies or Scouts anyway, since they are all-male corps. But then I learned that the Sky Ryders had relocated from Kansas to the Dallas area the year before and knew that I would audition for them.

And so, the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the autumn of 1991, with a full season of college marching band under my belt, and some really good playing chops, I went to Midlothian, TX to audition.

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