I Ran Away with the Drum Corps


Day 8

June 29, 2017 – Angel Mounds


Well, it’s another absolutely beautiful day in southern Indiana. The Boston Crusaders are still encampment at North High, north of Evansville. I scored! There is a Steinway on the stage and Jane, a retired math teacher and the school’s representative unlocked the door and gave me permission to play. The piano was donated by the parents of Nick, a student of North High, and pianist who passed away unexpectedly. I learned from Jane that this magnificent school serves a large area of the county extending into the city of Evansville. Building a school so far north of the city was controversial in that the kids who can least afford the transportation have the farthest to travel. This reduces student and parent participation in after-school activities such as the arts and athletics. They use 50 busses daily to get the kids from the city to this campus and back. The prevailing thinking was that the development is moving north. 

At Drums on the Ohio last night the Boston Crusaders took second place.  When was the last time that happened? Everyone is stoked about the performance. The crowd’s favorite corps was the Cavaliers, the judges’ scores agreed. However, BAC had made another great impression on the fans. I helped Anna push the synth cart up that hill and onto the field. As we were waiting to take the field, the corps sang Giant.  I ran to the top of the stands and stood at the 50 to watch and listen to their performance. This show is going to catch fire! I’m sure that I am now biased toward the Corps but I think it was the cleanest performance of the evening. What is really beginning to resonate with me is the emotional mood swings that I receive from the program. The ballad, Wicked Game by Chris Isaak, is very dynamic. It is sung beautifully by Aubrie-Lee, the guard member soloist, and then climaxes with an incredibly powerful moment with the brass. The mix of brass and the soloist voice really works well with this arrangement. It will be a long time before I get that song out of my head. Tears.


It is flat here in Indiana. I walked the site of Angel Mounds, a settlement of the Mississippi Indians from AD 1050 - 1400. As soon as a stepped out of the car, I heard a melodious bird and answered. I had a wonderful long walk around the open, mounded plain under constant serenade of nature – devoid of human made sounds. I had a very spiritual feeling the entire walk. 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 in wonder 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 asked loudly, “What are you 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.

Back at the drum corps encampment, I have had a good conversation with Gina, a BAM (mom) and consummate volunteer. She and I are on the same page with concern for the environmental impact of the activity. There are at least 3 things that are thrown away with each person’s meal – a plate, fork and napkin. Let’s do the math: 200 corps and staff x 4 meals a day x 3 = 2,400 piece of trash per day. Don’t even think about the compost. And, what about those foam cups? One trumpeter comes to meals with his own mess kit. What a concept. Another area of concern for me goes back the transportation impact. In the lot last night, all of the BAC vehicles were turned off. However, another corps diesel was running. It was noisy and detracted from the pit’s warm up. It also stunk. It seems ironic to me to put hundreds of the healthiest kids in America in the middle of dozens of foul diesel emitters. Surely there must be technology to keep the air conditioning on in the busses with out the massive impact on noise and air quality. Maybe the trumpeter, Gina and others will help BAC lead the way, moving drum corps to clean up its act off the field.


I have been completely slacking today while everyone else works hard. I had a couple of very nice sessions on the Steinway. It was a little out of tune and the una corda was a little out of whack but I found its voice on the second session. My only volunteer duty today was to take the horn instruction team to lunch at a great genuine Mexican restaurant in Evansville – El Patron. I have mostly been working for the operational team and the prop team, so this was a good opportunity to learn about the creative side of this endeavor. There is the music side and the visual side of the equation that equals the total experience. There are many creative individuals that write this stuff and professionals that instruct the members who make the magic happen. As hunter/gatherers, we humans respond to sound and motion. These 21st century geniuses are taking this activity to a whole new level and the human fans are responding.

The kids are coming in from a long afternoon rehearsal. They are in great spirits. We will be decamping tonight. Dinner is at 5:00pm, sponsored by Band Shoppe, ensemble at 6:30pm, and BIS at 11:00pm for Eastbrook High School for the DCI Central Indiana competition in Muncie. It is a 4-hour drive and begins my journey home as it is in a northeast direction from here.

Day 9

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 three sisters at the Angel Mounds visitor center, Evansville, Indiana.