Why I am aging out with the Jersey Surf

I’ve been waiting for three years to write this post.

I may not have realized it at the beginning, but my decision quickly became apparent as time went on.

And the more convinced I became, the more I felt the need to state my case and inevitably, speak for more than just myself.

I am choosing to age out with the Jersey Surf this season.

Really, it’s redundant for me to even announce it.  I never had plans to go anywhere else.  It’s not at all a shocker for everyone who knows me and the love and time and emotional investment I’ve made with the corps over the past three seasons.

But within the context of the competitive atmosphere of DCI, which seems conscious of points and placements and not so much of anything else, “I am choosing to age out with the Jersey Surf” becomes “I am choosing to age out with the corps that placed 22nd last year in semifinals.”

When I tell people I have marched in the Jersey Surf and have x number of years of DCI eligibility left, I am always asked, “Will you go to a different corps next year, or will you stay?”

I’ve found that when you express your wishes to remain in the currently lower-placing corps where you began your drum corps journey, you are deviating from the norm and people start to make excuses for you.

“Well, you found your family there :)”
“I guess it’s the most convenient drum corps for you to travel to.”
“(You’re just not good enough to make another corps.)”

In this activity, you are expected to “move up”.  March a few years in a lower placing world class corps or open class corps, then leave to audition for and march in a corps who’s pockets are heavy with rings and medals.

And I understand that.  I know what it is to watch the tightest, best performing ensemble in the world captivate the field with their precision and control the lot with their confidence, and want with a burning passion to be a part of that magic. I’ve felt that that feeling before.  I’ve wanted that magic too and that wanting is one of the strongest, most driving emotions you could ever harbor within your artsy little soul.

Everyone yearns to be a part of their dream corps.  The corps they watch on youtube til the wee hours of the night.  The corps they fantasize about earning a spot in, being part of the sound, the story, the future of that corps.

My dream corps is the Jersey Surf.  It took me a year or two to realize it, but it absolutely is.  I fell in love with the Jersey Surf the day I joined and every day I fall deeper in love.

There’s not a minute that goes by on tour where I ever wish to be in any other drum corps.

And it isn’t because I’ve found my family here, though it is certainly a wonderful plus that I have.

It isn’t because I think I’d never make a “top 6”, because I certainly know that it is within my abilities.

It isn’t because I think I’m so good that I’m doing the entire corps a favor by “staying behind” and making the corps stronger by my mere participation.

No, I choose to be in the Jersey Surf because the Jersey Surf offers me the drum corps experience that I wish to have over any other drum corps experience.

Our motto is “Share the Love.”  And we mean it, live it, and breathe it.  It is not just words.

We love to perform.  We perform beaming from ear to ear, with our laughing faces turned up towards the stands.  We love what we do so much that we want to share that love with our audiences.

Our show concepts and design are geared towards entertaining the audience.  We have invited our audiences to dance and sing.  To slap together multicolored thundersticks.  To leap to their feet in thunderous applause.

We are bold and honest.  To us, a drum corps show is about having a good time, and we do it with a musical, visual, and general effect book that is challenging, exciting, and very fun to perform.  Our audiences drink in the love that we share because we expend every effort to reach them and do not hide our attempts behind veils of irrelevancy.

We share the love everywhere we go.  In 2009, we befriended an elderly couple in Rome, NY, by responding to their desperate request for a drumline to play at their young daughter’s funeral.  When Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey shoreline, we offered up our food truck for service.  During the 2013 summer tour, we took a day off from rehearsing and performing to come home to the Jersey shore and clean remaining Sandy debris from Long Beach Island.

In 2011, we forged an official partnership with the Bayonne Bridgemen Alumni corps.  And ever since, the members of the Bridgemen have watched over us, sent us care packages, escorted us onto the field at shows, and loved us with a strength that most people will never know.

Our staff is friendly, respectful, honest, innovative and VERY smart.  They always treat us like people as opposed to numbers and dots on a page.

In the past couple of years, we have become one of the most talked about drum corps in DCI…not because of the points we have scored or the placements we have earned, but because of WHO we are and WHAT we do.

Being a part of the Jersey Surf isn’t just being part of a drum corps.  It is a lifestyle, one of responsibility, one of love, one of friendship, as well as excellence, persistence, and high-level achievement.

And THAT is the drum corps experience that I will spend an entire summer, two and a half thousand dollars, and my raging emotions on.

I believe that the DCI community cannot continue to view non-finalist or open class corps as “feeder corps”, “lesser corps”, or anything less than a “real” drum corps.

I believe that each and every marching organization has an identity: a story worth telling and a history worth remembering and a way of life worth living.

But under no circumstances am I insinuating that just because of where I march, I do not care about the points, or more specifically, the performance excellence and precision of my corps.  I want to be excellent.  My corps wants to be excellent.

Every year that I have marched, the Jersey Surf has taken large steps forwards in our technical performance excellence, whether the points and placements reflect it or not.  Every year, the Jersey Surf has gotten better at drum corps, which is not something that can be always be said elsewhere.

I don’t care about the points…and I do care about the points.

Points don’t matter when a stadium of 15,000 people rebounds to their feet and screams for you, the roar so resonant that it thrums through the turf on which you lie.

Points don’t matter when 5,000 pairs of banana sticks clap along to Party Rock Anthem.

Points don’t matter when Aretha saunters up the field, when the insane energy of the climax of the show builds behind you as you throw down your horn and dance and the audience eagerly follows suit.

Points do matter when you want to go on later at a dome show.

Points do matter when you want to perform at DCI World Finals on a Saturday night.

Because the LATER you go on in the show, the MORE people you get to share the love with!  The more people you can impact, the more people who’s grey little lives you can save with a flick of your horn and a wave of your arm and a pure rectangle of your sound.

I, too, sat from the tallest corner of Lucas Oil Stadium as Crown entered the field for their world finals performance.  I, too, watched the crowd of thousands and thousands explode before the first member’s foot hit the turf.

I didn’t have to close my eyes to see the future edition of the Jersey Surf taking the finals field in their place.  I could hear the distant roar of the distant crowd in the not so distant future, screaming for their favorite corps, the Jersey Surf.  I could taste the energy reverberating and throbbing out of the stadium walls.  I could see the members of the Jersey Surf smiling and waving back, mouthing “Thank you, please enjoy the show!”

And the ring would still only be an afterthought.  Far outshined by our collection of friends, of memories, of lives this organization has turned upside down in the best of ways.

I march in the Jersey Surf……because we always win 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Why I am aging out with the Jersey Surf”

  1. Great great post! I know exactly where you are coming from, as I was a member of the Velvet Knights from 1992-1994. Like Jersey Surf, the crowd LOVED us and we enjoyed performing for the crowd more than anything. My second and third year, VK continued to drop in the placements, with us finishing in 15th place. That year, I went up north to audition with the Blue Devils, along with several of my VK friends, and we all made the corps. However, I chose to return to VK for my age-out year because I LOVED VK. I loved our instructors (I was in the drumline), and I loved what the corps stood for. I applaud you for sticking to what you love, and not chasing the ring. If I had marched with Blue Devils in 1994, I would have won a ring. I don’t regret my decision one bit! Check out my blog and follow along! My latest post is about drum corps food and the food truck cooks. Cheers! http://www.windycityepicurean.com

  2. Beautifully expressed. Your love letter to your corps was packed with sincerity. This kind of statement of experience is, I think, what every drum corps would like to hear from their ageouts. Yours, perhaps, carried more of a punch than most because of the corps you chose to spend your drum corps experience with. They are a great drum corps, and 22nd or 12th or 1st wouldn’t make that any different. I hope that somewhere in your heart there will always be a secure place to keep your love for Surf alive, and that someday you will be in a position to start giving back so that some other young person, perhaps someone not even born yet, will have the experience you just described. Good luck. It’s easy to see that you are well on your way to having a great life.

  3. I love the article you wrote about your experience with the Jersey Surf. It does take a lot of commitment to be in any drum corps, but the feeling you have during your years of performing with Surf have will have a lasting impression on your life in the future. I am new to the Surf organization being a first year board member, but marching with Black Watch in the late 70’s and 80’s I saw the same commitment from a lot of the kids who aged out as a member of Black Watch. There was and still is a lot of the Black Watch staff helping surf get to the next level but the commitment from members like yourself will be the building back bone of the organization in the future. Bob Jacobs and all the staff and members give it there all each year to have the audience to participate and enjoy the show. That’s what drum cops is all about.

    Thank you and I look forward to meeting you at one of the camps.

    Gary Wolfrom

  4. I very much appreciate this post. As someone who aged out in Vanguard Cadets, after having been cut from SCV and BD, I admire your decision and standing up for it. People assumed I would find a “lower placing” World Class (then, Div. 1) corps to finish my drum corps career, but I didn’t. I did go back and forth with the idea, but I ultimately chose to finish with my SCVC family. They were my family and they supported me like no one else could have done in my last year of marching. They knew I was a role model and a leader, and the staff was grateful for it. And I believe that every drum corps strives for the same thing, but it gets diminished when you put a score/placement on the performance. I wish DCI and the rest of the drum corps community would understand that EVERY corps matters and not just the top 12 in World Class. Thank you for your early realization of your family and for expressing it so beautifully here.

  5. I am loving reading your posts. You have great insight and – at least in your writing – epitomize the attitude every drum corps member should have. You show appreciation, dedication, respect . . . My son aged out of Blue Stars this year – he marched with them for six years. If he could write as well as you do, I think he would say many of the same things that you said. He, too, chose to stay with a non-top-place corps for all the right reasons. I think you have a wonderful future ahead – because you have great perspective and a great attitude. All the best.

  6. YES. I love every part of this. My favorite part is:
    “I believe that the DCI community cannot continue to view non-finalist or open class corps as “feeder corps”, “lesser corps”, or anything less than a “real” drum corps.
    I believe that each and every marching organization has an identity: a story worth telling and a history worth remembering and a way of life worth living.”

    I always have tried to find a way to explain that just because a corps doesn’t always place really high or make finals or whatever doesn’t mean that their performers don’t work just as hard.

    Jersey Surf and Spirit of Atlanta are my favorite drum corps, and I am no longer ashamed to admit that.

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