Diary

Listen, what are you doing tomorrow night?

Because if you find yourself bored tomorrow, and you dig a really high-powered marching band (or at least music), you could do worse than to click on this link, which will be more than happy to direct you to a movie theater near you. I guarantee you’ll come away with your hair blown back, and a new-found appreciation for the talents of kids ranging in age from 14 to 21.

Long story short, I was a band geek. Granted, I was a drummer, which made life a bit easier for me, but I had the privilege of having been born to a family steeped in drum corps history.

To those of you unfamiliar, a drum and bugle corps is most readily defined as a marching band on steroids. No woodwinds, no high school or college affiliation, just some of the best young musicians and performers in the world, who each spend the summer touring the country on buses, sleeping on gym floors, practicing until they drop, and competing in an activity more commonly referred to as “marching music’s major league.”

They represent some of the very best of our young people, and I (along with my father, mother and younger brother) am privileged to have taken part in this activity in our youth.

I could copy-and-paste the Wiki article, or I could shut up and illustrate via video. Do yourself a favor and plug your headphones in, turn them up, go full-screen (sorry for the low-quality of a couple of these_, and enjoy…

First up, here are the Madison Scouts (one of two all-male corps left, of course) at the World Championships in 1988. This is my alma mater corps (meaning the one I “aged-out” in when I turned 21). Name of the piece is “Malaguena.” A real barn-burner, it helped us win our first World title since the 1970’s.

Next up are the Santa Clara Vanguard, warming up outside Foxboro Stadium after a rain-out at the Drum Corps International World Championships in 2005. I selected this clip to give you an idea of just how talented the brass players are at this level. Plus, I’m a shameless Phantom of the Opera fan, and I LOVE this piece of music.

Next up is my partner’s favorite corps, the always-elegant Phantom Regiment from Rockford, Illinois. They’ve long prided themselves on having one of the best horn lines in the activity, and this example proves that they’ve accomplished it. It’s taken from what is known as a “hornline arc,” which is what a corps usually does just prior to stepping onto a football field in competition. The young man in the black uniform is one of their drum majors, or “conductors,” who seems to be psyching himself up before leading his corps into battle (a battle they would eventually win, as you shall soon see.)

And this, my friends, is just a clip of Phantom Regiment’s show that year, “Spartacus.” Many people felt it was violent in the beginning, but it did a damn fine job of setting the table for the legendary story. Take note of the tremendous audience applause, even before the show begins…

And finally, we end with the 2010 Cavaliers from Rosemont, Illinois, with whom both my father and brother marched in their youths. The the only other all-male corps still competing, and are, by many accounts, the favorites to win this year’s World Title. I’m not a big fan of this corps, but they put on a helluva show last year, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they finally end up performing come crunch time.

Again, keep in mind that these are NOT professionals, but largely high school and college kids who actually PAY to do this each summer. Ask yourselves, how many young people who, despite dreams of performing for an audience, actually GET to perform in front of an audience of 40,000 fans, standing on their feet in appreciation of what they do?

The answer, of course, is not many. That’s an experience all too few of them get to share.

It’s about $8 a ticket, and most of the money goes to the corps, so if you’re bored, give a thought to going, ok?