The Sounds of Summer

there are two kinds of people in the world:

1. those who drum corps and

2. all others. 

 (if you’ve never even heard of drum corps, you are a definite “other”) 

if you’ve driven by a local high school over the summer and heard drums and horns for hours on end, you’ve probably heard drum corps. 

we just got back from a 4 day trip to indianapolis, in to see our daughter (a second year member of phantom regiment drum and bugle corps) compete at the 2011 drum corps international finals competition.  she has been on the road rehearsing and performing across the country since may.  (we saw her once between may and august for about 15 minutes on her way into a performance… she was not allowed to hug us while she’s in uniform, technically she wasn’t supposed to talk to us either)

this all started when our oldest daughter joined the competition band color guard in high school.  you say, oh the football half time show?  us too.  don’t ever say that again.  ever.  seriously, don’t.  competition band is the high school version of drum corps (in a scaled down, sloppy kind of way), which is to say marching band on steroids. (world class drum corps is what happens when you cross an elite marching band with the most talented broadway musical and dance performers)

our oldest went on from color guard to a musician on the field to drum major.  when e, our next oldest daughter, got to high school, she decided to join competition band color guard (reluctantly, veeerrrrryyyyy reluctantly).  we figured she’d be over it after one year.  surprisingly, she took to it, then announced two years later that she needed a ride to jersey surf drum & bugle corps auditions the day after thanksgiving.  um, okay.

she didn’t know a soul there, but walked right in (told us to get lost) and stayed for the weekend of auditions.  (this is the same child who i took to gymnastics class once a week for an entire year and who stood by the sidelines and would not participate)

e spent 4 years with jersey surf then auditioned for a world class corps color guard and earned the highest score. but that didn’t mean she got a spot.  when she went back for follow-up auditions, she got cut. and too late to make auditions for any other corps (hence the reason i will not mention the name of that other, crappy corps).  devastated, but determined, she packed up again and flew out to rockford, il to try to earn a spot with phantom regiment.  she paid her fees, worked out with them every day for a month (12 hour days) on the hope that someone would drop out so she could earn a spot.  just before then started the performance tour, someone dropped out and e got the spot. 

(there’ve been some tough (helpless parent type moments) in e’s drum corps career… the first year with jersey surf, she broke her foot minutes before finals and the directors had no choice but to stick her on a bus and hit the field for the show.  we got a distraught e all alone sobbing at us on the phone from a bus in the parking lot of a stadium in wisconsin.  i guess waiting to hear whether she got a spot at phantom was cake by comparison)

so drum corps is a big, big deal.  even if you haven’t heard of it, it’s a big deal.  and finals are a big deal.  competition is held in lucas oil stadium and about 30,000 people show up to see the shows.  semi-final competitions are broadcast in movie theatres across the country.  (check out if you want to see more)

this was e’s last year in drum corps because once you’re over 21, you have to age out of the activity.  e aged out on friday night, the night before her last drum corps performance ever.  we were in the stands to see it, and to cry about it. 

the next night, finals night, we were there with our daughter, l, e’s boyfriend (brass instructor and blue devils alum) and my sister (who drove out from st. louis) to see phantom regiment in finals.  they finished in fifth place (.24 out of 4th) and the color guard finished 3rd. might not sound like a big deal, trust me, it was an accomplishment.  (there are so, so many gory details and gossip surrounding the scoring and the corps in these competitions)

check out the video below for a taste of phantom world 2011.  

after the show, there’s kind of a free for all in the parking lot outside the stadium where the food trucks of the top 12 corps are converted into beer gardens and about a thousand kids celebrate (and mourn) the end of a summer full of 12 hour rehearsal days, sleeping on busses and three time weekly performances.  they may be tired and sore now, but they’ll be back next year. 

even if they’ve aged out, they’ll be back in some way once the drums of summer call out to them.  congratulations e.  we’re so proud of you.



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