I Ran Away with the Drum Corps


Day 7

June 28, 2017 – Drums on the Ohio


I have been weaning myself, and the corps away from my volunteer help since I may not be with them after tomorrow. I do not want to be counted on for a mission critical task, though everything seems to be mission critical. I will help with Drums on the Ohio tonight in Evansville and leave in the morning – maybe. The next venue in Muncie, Indiana is northeast of here, my direction home to Vermont. I am not really in any hurry to make that long trip back to the northeast.

It is flat here in Indiana. Yesterday, I walked the site of Angel Mounds, a settlement of the Mississippi Indians from 1500AD. I had a very spiritual feeling the entire walk. The birds were very melodious. As I was returning to the visitor center along a mowed path, a red-winged blackbird flew out of the tall grass beside the path above my head squawking. I stopped as the clearly agitated bird hovered in complete circles about 5 feet above me. If I began to walk forward or backward, he would follow. This went on for several minutes, the bird occasionally stopping to take a break while I stood still. I wondered: what is he trying to tell me? Then I spied the farmer on his tractor cutting the hay along the path way ahead. He had come down this lane with one pass already to cut the tall grass next to the path where I and the bird were engaged in our conversation. I then realized that the bird was telling me to stop the tractor from cutting anymore so as to save the nestlings in the grass. I said to the bird that I would go see the farmer and stop the tractor. The bird then stopped its hovering circles and quietly returned to a perch.

I walked ahead and waved to the farmer who stopped his tractor. I said that it was too hot out in the sun for him to be working so hard. We shook hands and engaged in a friendly conversation about farming, Vermont, Bernie and what have you. Al is 85 years old and raises beef cattle on his small farm next to the mound site. He lamented about the impinging development that has steadily surrounded his farm over his lifetime. “Its got so you can’t even pull out of my driveway.” I told Al of my encounter with the bird and asked if he would skip that area for a couple more days. He smiled and said he would and was going to quit for the day anyway. It was a remarkable experience and I left thinking that maybe the reason that I came all the way out here was to save the nestling birds. And that is fine.

Have I told you how hard this Corps works? Last night the entire ensemble practiced under the lights working through the show, tweaking and perfecting the drills and music. The run-through was at 11:00pm. I really appreciate how the creative staff and instructors interact with the members. There is very little admonishment and lots of praise. Steve, the head of the brass team has a great approach by always beginning a critique with a complement. This is the same approach that I have been using successfully as a ski instructor. Rather than error detection (you’re doing this wrong), I identify a strength and build from there. Such as: “I like the way you are turning your skis together. Now, if you keep your hands forward and shoulders square, you avoid counter rotating your upper body and the turns will be smoother and rounder.” BTW – this “strength identification” approach works with your own children, employees, everyone.

Many of the creative staff members are new with BAC, coming from competing corps. This has caused a bit of a buzz in the activity. Can this dream team put together a competitive show? Last year’s ranking for BAC was not their best, however they were in the championship line up on finals (top 12). This year, the expectations are high and according to Garry, the board member, the staff team and corps members are already exceeding the board’s expectation. Wicked Games is a very powerful program that has accent moments that are extremely intense. The speed of the drills, the complexity of the guard movements, the difficult brass arrangements, and the demanding percussion of the battery and front ensemble, makes this a competitive show. But, a difficult one to master. It is amazing to see and hear the improvements. It is getting cleaner by the day. Let’s hope the judges give the credit that is due for this amazing corps and their wicked cool program and see them climb in the standings. Rise.


Well, I am at the eye doctor in Evansville. Josh, color guard member suffered a kick to the head, receiving a concussion and is experience vision problems.  The corps’ doctor, Vivian scheduled his appointment with the local eye doctor. Since I had an available vehicle, Ron, the corps director asked me to provide a ride for Josh and be with him for the visit. Rifles, sabers, flags and other props can be dangerous, so can a contra bass horn or bass drum if you turn the wrong way. The speed and complexity of the programs continue to increase making, these occurrences more common. There is a whole team of wellness professionals that travel with the Corps. They have been constantly treating pulls, sprains and bruises. There are four concussions so far. This shoots my theory that it is safer than football. Maybe. I know they practice harder and longer. The members endure constant sun. They each carry their own water cooler and take frequent breaks as they run through countless takes of sections of the program. Their nearly bare bodies shine with sweat. Tears come as sunscreen gets in their eyes. They sprint to the restroom and back between takes. Josh checked out ok, but the Boston Crusaders will not be marching with their full complement tonight. Blood, Sweat and Tears.


It is show night. I have found my home with the pit, helping Anna, keyboard synthesizer and sound inducer. Her large console that houses her keyboard and other electronic gear is very heavy and hard to roll, especially up hill. There is a steep hill from the lot up to the field. Anna is a rock star with a beautiful smile, though she is more famous for her expressive scowls during the darker moments of the program. All of the members of the pit, there are thirteen of them, use their facial expressions and body movements effectively to portray the emotion of the music. The pit is setting up for a pre-show rehearsal. I happened to be sitting in the middle of their line up. In addition to Anna’s electronic keyboard there are several acoustic keyboards. Juan, the timpani player, will be in the next show. Arriving late with the corps to replace an injured player, he has learned the music and is ready. Tonight BAC will face the Cavaliers again who held them off in Cincinnati. Soon the corps will assemble to take the field. First, as is the corps tradition before each performance, they will huddle together and sing the traditional corps song – Giant.

Day 8

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.

The horn line rehearsing in the late afternoon sun at

North High School near Evansville, Indiana.