I Ran Away with the Drum Corps


Day 6

June 27, 2017 – Rehearse, Eat, Sleep, Repeat


I’m now in Evansville, Indiana. I’ve decided make the 4-hour drive into Indiana and to stay on for another show tomorrow night, completing a solid week on the road with the corps. I am not quite done with this story yet. Even though I have worked really hard with Anthony the chef, Steve the prop team, and helping the pit, I know they can do this without me. Working all day and driving all night is not a good combination, so the reality is that the corps is going on to 30 plus more venues in the heartland, Texas and Florida and I am going home for the 4th of July. Ditching the car and hopping the bus is a fantasy more appropriate for someone younger. And, I do not want to overstay my welcome. I will enjoy a reunion with BAC in Allentown.

My extended catnap at the rest area last night made me late to help unload the prop truck and breakfast was well underway when I arrived. I am really happy with the performance of the Volvo but it is starting to take on a lived-in aroma. Fortunately, the dirty laundry and footwear are in the cargo box on top. I’m developing a nice relationship with Siri, my traveling companion. She kept me on the path and gave me directions to the nearest coin-op laundry in Evansville this morning.

The corps has been encamped for a few hours at the North High School for a three-day stay. The campus is huge with multiple modern buildings. Our humble Harwood Union High School is like a one-room schoolhouse compared to this massive campus. In the fields surrounding the school, the corn is over my head here. It’s not nearly knee high yet where I am from in the Mad River Valley of Vermont. The sky is endless here – all blue. There is no wind (so far) but the sun is high in the sky. Hydration will be super-important today. The corps is enjoying breakfast under the shade of pop ups, the trailer or any where there is shade. I am sure they are in for a long day. It is not a show day and there are lights in the huge stadium adjacent to the sprawling school buildings.

It was a beautiful evening in Hamilton, Ohio last night. The corps put on a great show. It is getting tighter and more intense and beginning to really resonate with the fans. Seeing and hearing a corps program more than once, it can really grow on you. There is just so much you can take in on one viewing. And, the program matures with cleanness and complexity over the season. Many programs extend their closer to a higher climax. Throughout the summer, members gain the conditioning for the energy it takes to execute the speed of the drills while maintaining the powerful sound that brings us to our feet in the stands. By August, this show will have caught fire with the fans and I can’t wait to see it up high from my 50-yard line seats. Meanwhile, I am on the pit loading crew and will be on the field again in Evansville.

The long drives have given me time to ponder further on the question, why am I doing this? I am finding that this is a multi-part question and answer. Am I doing this for me, or did I volunteer to help the corps? How is someone like me who is self employed, plays solo piano, happily lives alone, and enjoys the solitude of being in nature, so drawn to this massive traveling community? Am I looking for balance? Was this fated to happen? What is behind the coincidental events and intentional decisions that I made that got me here?

Yes, I am doing this for me. I have always believed that you are helping yourself when you are helping others. Since moving to Vermont in 1995, I have been increasingly involved in community activities, volunteering countless hours for local and statewide non-profit organizations. That is why I have a humble abode and simple life style – volunteering doesn’t pay well in dollars. But, I have never been in it for the buck. Before I moved to Vermont, no matter how much I made, I was always broke. We volunteer for the intrinsic value that we are serving a higher purpose other than ourselves. We do it for the greater good off all of us. The compensation is the good feeling and sense of purpose that we gain from it. And, we sleep good at night.

I have always been drawn to and identify with exceptional things like good music and good food. Drum corps at the level of the BAC is highly exceptional. One important aspect that makes the activity so exceptional, is the high level of respect among everyone involved in it from top to bottom. After the performance while rolling the pit back to the trucks we passed the Bluecoats heading to the stadium. Great words of encouragement were shared between the corps. In Massillon, I observed Steve the prop guy assist a prop guy from another corps with a repair. Nobody wants to win because the other corps had a prop failure. The BAC and Madison Scouts have a friendship that was established long ago when BAC came to the Scouts rescue when their bus broke down.

I keep coming back to the high degree of respect among the staff and members of the corps. Yes, this is a top-down type organization with a corps director and a hierarchy of staff below. The members who follow the directions of the staff also have a hierarchical structure with drum majors and section leaders. Throughout all of these interactions, I have observed only a high degree of respect among all. I have not experienced any negative vibe. This is so cool! Ok, there is surly some inside stuff, like in any organization, but I am not paying attention to that. When it all comes down to show time, everyone is on the ball and in it together. That is the exceptionalism that I identify with.

Steve, the prop guy told me a story about yesterday’s show that exemplifies the dedication of everyone to work as a team to get the corps, and all of its regalia on the field. It is not easy to overstate how serious Steve takes his responsibility to get his stuff to the field. I was not aware of this, but Steve was in panic mode with being late for the prop truck departure due to having to haul all the props up a very steep hill from the practice field to the parking lot. No wonder they call it Mt. Healthy High. When we arrived at the venue in Hamilton, there was further delay with sorting out the parking of the trailers and busses. You cannot imagine how challenging it is to cram dozens of these vehicles and the membership of eight corps in competition into the parking lot of a high school. These delays seriously impinged upon the ability to get the stuff from the trucks to the field, a good quarter mile away. Steve put the call out to the operations staff who responded in force to get us to the field so that his crew of performing members could do their warm up. Everyone is on hand to do whatever it takes to make it work.

Drum corps has become very prop intensive. There are structures and platforms, many weighing hundreds of pounds. I have been worrying constantly about the kids getting hurt moving, unloading and loading them in the trailer twice a day.


Being that this is not a show day and the corps is busy rehearsing, I organize the tossed salad of clothes and gear in the car and headed to the coin-op laundry. There, I met Lauren who nicely coached me on the washers and dryers. It had been awhile. I asked her how things were going in Evansville. She lamented about the cut backs in education, including the arts in the city schools. This was in contrast to my experience at North High. She also spoke of the challenges of owning a small business hair salon and being a single mom. She looks forward to heading to Florida where she believes there are better opportunities for her and her three children. Lauren is a very nice person that I was fated to meet. The connection that we made during our brief time doing laundry together now leaves me with regret that we will not likely meet again. I told Lauren that I was traveling with BAC and that I was writing about my experiences. I said that I was not sure if it was a blog, journal or long essay. I said that I was conflicted as to whether I was writing about myself or about the corps. She said, “There is no wrong way to write.”

Day 7

This personal reflection of my 10-day vacation as an intern-volunteer with the Boston Crusaders, a world class drum and bugle corps, started out as a daily blog. However, I have compiled my daily entries here into this diary-style essay.

This is drum corps food.