My Drum Corps Experience

Drum and Bugle Corps (a.k.a. “Drum Corps”) is an activity similar to high school marching band, but with a few fundamental differences. First and foremost, Drum Corps is not associated with school, and takes place during the summer. Second, Drum Corps is typically much more demanding and competitive than high school marching band. Finally, Drum Corps has no woodwinds, just brass and percussion instruments.

I was approached about joining Drum Corps by one of my most well-liked and respected teachers, who had previously participated in the activity. He told me it would require a high level of skill and dedication, and he believed I was up for the task. I considered this carefully, agreed and commenced my Drum Corps experience. Practices began in March, and were held once a week from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. As summer approached, we bumped it up to biweekly rehearsals, and started participating in weekend camps. Weekend camps consisted of the entire Drum Corps giving up their Saturdays and Sundays to march in the rain. It was far from pleasant, but no one complained, we just went and performed our task. By the time June came around, we were working anywhere from six to eighteen hours per week, in addition to our normal school course load. Finally school ended. The Corps was given the weekend off, and full camp started Monday.

While other people my age were just settling into their normal summer routine of staying up all night and sleeping until noon, I was waking up at 7:00 a.m. and attending Corps camp for the first two weeks of my summer. Camp ran from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for two weeks in the sweltering heat. The temperature exceeded ninety degrees almost every day. It was not uncommon for me to drink over a gallon of water. Yet despite the heat and fatigue, I loved every minute of it. We would start each day with a twenty-minute group stretch, followed by a short jog, and then the dreaded circle drill. Circle drill is a very physically challenging exercise in which the entire Corps spreads itself equally along a circle painted on the grass. We would then proceed to march laterally around the circle, at varying tempos, ad nauseam. After a quick musical warm-up, we would spend the rest of the day, excluding our lunch break, learning and perfecting our show. By the end of camp in late June, we were a far cry from where we had started just four months earlier.

The last part of my Drum Corps experience was performing in four shows. Because this was our Corps’s first year, we were not allowed to compete, but we marched along side two of the top three Drum Corps in the nation, the Blue Devils from Concord, California and the Santa Clara Vanguard from Santa Clara, California. We performed our first show ever in Woodburn, Oregon. Many of us were nervous, but we got over our worries and performed an amazing show. The next stop was our homecoming show in Spokane. We performed beautifully there too, and the hometown audience loved us. Our biggest show was in Seattle, Washington, where we performed in Seahawks Stadium to a very large crowd. We performed our final show of the season in Kelso, Washington.