Drum Corps: The beautiful brass sound of ballads filling the air. My favorite seats were top row. On a mild and breezy evening you can get so wrapped up in the sound and the images much like a quiet evening on the seashore listening to the gentle waves lapping on the sand.
I enjoyed band but I loved drum corps. One fall band competition I noticed a booth for the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps so I picked up a brochure. Later the next day I handed it to my son who brushed it aside with an "I don't want to do that" and gave me a look of disdain for what I was trying to get him involved in. Ironically at the end of May that year his best buddy who had joined the Blue Knights told him that the horn instructor would give them a six pack of Mountain Dew if he brought Scott to the next practice. So for a six pack of Mountain Dew his life was forever changed. He would go on to blow his bugle in the heat, rain and wind across America up and down many times over the next four years building relationships that would last a life time.
At the same time that he was performing the summers in drum corps he began performing the winters in Winter Guard building another set of lifetime relationships. After three trips to the world championships for Winter Guard, garnering one silver medal, and four trips to drum corp world championships as a bugler (high brass lead in the 4th year), he wanted to either be the drum major or perform in the drum corps guard. With the Blue Knights that was not possible. He was needed as a strong horn player and they did not have male guard members. In the fall of 1992 he flew to Bergen County, New Jersey and auditioned for the Cadets guard and won a spot. The 1700 mile (flight) trip several times a year and corps fees were expensive but he had saved and kept working to pay for the experience. This final drum corps experience would take him to the world championships in 115° Jackson, MS that August and a gold medal and championship ring.
How do I fit in with all of the above since this is my story? Overland High School Band Parent Vice President, President, Bingo Operations Manager and Bingo Games Manager for 4 years; Winter Guard International - Bingo Games Manager for independent guards for 3 years and 1 year as independent guard sponsor and fundraiser (++++), all of which included 4 trips to the world championships in Dayton, OH; Blue Knights Drum Corps - 4 years as Bingo Games Manager, 2 years on the corporate board of directors and many other volunteer projects as well as 3 trips to the Drum Corps world championships. And then came the Cadets of Bergen County when I stood on the sidelines of that Jackson, MS field with tears as I heard the announcer name off 11 places without the calling the Cadets. They had won the world championships by 1/10th of a point. The after show celebration was unique as in the parking lot as all celebrated who should come to celebrate the win with Scott: the 4 second soprano buglers from the Blue Knights that he had lived with for four summer tour years.
The Cadets had a long history of championships and funding. They were a very sought after corps with a group of supporters that followed them year after year. Most of the volunteers were from the New Jersey area except for Moe and Moe was from "Nawlans." He was totally unique and I fell in love with him for the two weeks we were on tour together. The Cadets schedule brought them to Denver and Drums Along the Rockies. I used the opportunity to hook up with them as a van driver through the last leg of their tour into finals. I volunteered to drive the cooks van so the cooks could sleep. While the buses with corps members, instructors and management were air conditioned. The van for the cooks was not. Even though travel was always during the night, that summer was a hot one and you often could not drive with the windows down as the heated wind took your breath away. We first stopped in Hutchinson, KS for a show and then on to a show in Oklahoma, Dallas, Houston and finally Jackson, MS. The biggest entertainment during the dark of knight was identifying the manure smells along the highway: pig farm, no feed lot, no ??? Needless to say the nights were long and bathroom breaks were few. Somewhere during our last leg into Jackson we stopped at a gas station where the bathroom was an upstairs composting type of toilet with only a curtain. As I was about to pull the curtain back I saw to the side of me two white eyes lit by the gas lamp. I closed the curtain back and spent the rest of the journey in agony.
Somewhere along the way between Kansas and Dallas a big bug blew in through the open window and committed suicide in my eye. If it weren't so painful it would have made a comedy act. My eye was so sore as a part of the bug seemed embedded in it. I had to keep it closed to drive as the hot air that came in the window greatly aggravated it. At one point I taped the bottom of a paper cup over it to protect it from the hot wind. When we hit Dallas, I was taken to an ER unit where I was diagnosed with conjunctivitis and given an antibiotic which helped greatly.
Every where I go I carry a good camera. I had been taking quite a few pictures of the corps when the director came to me and said (not asked), "I want you to take 700 slides of the tour and I will pay for the film and printing." Throughout those two weeks I did take that many pictures but he was not happy about the cost as I had copies made of the slides for them. I took pictures for myself first and copies for the Cadets which turned out to be expensive. Digital has made such a difference in the world of documentation.
Dallas housing was in a beautiful high income area high school. The driver's quarters were in the "dance studio" with walls of mirrors and spring floor including AIR CONDITIONING. Finally I slept and recuperated. After one competition and a few days of rehearsal we moved on to Houston where housing was in a high school in a deprived area. There were huge cockroaches hanging from the ceiling and on the walls. The shower drains and bathroom sinks were peppered with dead cockroaches. This was the only location where corps members personal items were stolen and where I had a heart wrenching experience. After two months of touring competition one set of the guard's flags were pretty shaggy looking. The seamstresses on tour had called a strike and refused to sew new ones. Scott had mentioned to the guard instructors that I had sewed many flags for his groups before. One of the guard instructors asked me if I would (and could) make 32 flags before finals which was in about 4 days. The flags were double headed lion silhouettes on an a burgundy background. This would mean that I would be photographer, driver and now seamstress. My comment was that if it made 1/10th of a point difference in their show I would do it. This also meant that I had to deal with the defiant attitude of the corps women who had refused to do the task. The guard members and instructors set about laying out and cutting all of the flags as I sewed them together. I don't recall exactly the amount of time it took but I do remember sleepless nights. I was exhausted and asked to sleep on the instructor's air conditioned bus. When I sat down on the bus, I was immediately ordered out by the instructors. Back to the cooks hot van. Although I garnered a great deal of respect for the corps members, the determination they fostered to perfect a beautiful show and the teamwork atmosphere that made it happen, I lost tremendous respect for the management and was happy to see the end of the tour. The greatest reward came when the final championship winning score was announced, the Cadets show, "In the Spring at a Time When Kings Go Off To War," had won by 1/10th of a point.