Marching Band on Steroids

Let’s play one of those word association games… the one where I say something and then you say the first thing that comes to your mind. Okay, ready?

“Marching Band”

Alright, your responses are probably varied based on who you are. I’ve been around the marching band activity for a long time now, so the first words that come to my mind are “hard work”, “comradery”, and “rewarding.” However, I’m guessing those aren’t the words that came to you. I’m making assumptions, but some words that likely came to your mind are “geek”, “music”, “unathletic”, and “boring.” It’s okay, I’m not offended. These not-so-endearing thoughts you have are likely rooted in dull experiences you’ve had watching marching bands in the past. However, I want you to throw everything you thought you knew about marching band away, because what I’m about to introduce to you is unlike any kind of marching band you’ve ever seen.

I’ve heard people describe Drum and Bugle Corps in many different ways. The easiest way to describe it is to simply say, “It’s like professional marching band.” I think my high school band director put it best when he told a newspaper reporter that drum corps is like “marching band on steroids.” At a glance, this activity might just look like plain ol’ marching band, but drum corps is an embodiment of the word “extreme.” Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you, but hear me out.

The drum corps season occurs for about three months, starting in mid-May and ending in mid-August. The first month consists of what is known as “Spring Training”, where the members rehearse upwards of ten hours a day learning the show they are going to perform for the rest of the summer. When I say “rehearse”, I don’t mean sitting in an air-conditioned band room somewhere… Rehearsing is being outside in the heat for hours at a time doing intense training that requires the athleticism of an Olympic athlete and the grace of a ballet dancer, only stopping to eat meals and sleep. Check out this feature on ESPN on the physical nature of this activity.

After about thirty days of spring training, the corps begin touring the country, performing and competing against each other for two months. The tour ends with the final championship competition at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where the most elite marching ensemble of the year is crowned world champion. However, this isn’t the lavish, rock star kind of tour that every young musician dreams about… A typical day on tour consists of rehearsing all day, performing in the evening, trying to sleep on a cramped coach bus that travels through the night to get you to the next destination, spending the rest of the night sleeping on a high school gym floor, and then waking up at 8 AM to do it all again.

Alright, now you’re probably thinking, “Why the heck would anyone want to do this?” I’ve participated in this activity for the past two summers and plan on doing it again next summer, so I will happily answer this question. Here are the reasons why I enjoy this activity so much and want to do it every year:

-       First of all, my two passions in life (besides stuffing my face with pizza rolls) are sports and music. This activity is the perfect combination of the two, which made it a perfect outlet for me.

-       Secondly, this activity has taught me so much and has helped shaped who I am today. In addition to becoming a better drummer, I’ve learned how to work well with others and the true meaning of diligence. When I sit down at my desk with a daunting paper to write, I can look back to when I ran around outside for hours in the 100 degree Texas heat and realize that I can do anything.

-       Thirdly, there is a strong sense of comradery that develops amongst the 150 members of a drum corps that I have not found anywhere else. I’ve met so many amazing people and have made friendships that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

-       Lastly, I firmly believe there isn’t an experience more rewarding. Investing so much time and effort into perfecting a show, and then performing it in a huge stadium in front of 20,000 fans that love what you’re doing is a feeling that is very rare and unforgettable.

Drum Corps is the greatest activity that nobody knows about. It’s a competitive sport and beautiful art that deserves more attention and respect than it currently receives.

I’ve been a part of the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps for the past two seasons, and we were lucky enough to be crowned champions last summer. Here is a video (featuring yours truly) of a drum corps in action during rehearsal showing how much we ran around.

Scott Meyer1 Comment