What everyone should know about marching drum corps

11 and half minutes is finite.
No matter what you’re afraid of. Falling down. Legs turning to dust. Failing to do something well. Every runthrough will end in no more than 11 and a half minutes. All comes to pass.

You have a greater chance of dying in a marching accident than in a plane crash. Or a shark attack.
Drum corps is ABSURDLY dangerous. You run around a field with up to 50 pounds of equipment, multitasking for 11 and half minutes with 149 other people, and your drill writer literally writes dots inches apart from one another.

If you’re in pit and don’t march, you load and unload thousands of pounds of equipment from a truck 700 times a day.

Sometimes it’s 110 degrees outside.

Also, there are thunderstorms and most of your equipment conducts electricity.

If you survive even one year of this, you have a guardian angel.

There is a lot of crying in drum corps.
You’ll injure yourself and march through the pain. You’ll fight with someone and drown in an illogical tangle of emotion. You’ll miss your dot and never hear the end of it from the staff. Something will happen at home and you’ll feel alone hundreds of miles away.

One day, you’ll throw your heart on the field one last time and know you at last have no more to give. One day, you’ll get on a bus to go home and watch your friends all leave, one by one, each of them taking a part of you away.

There is a lot of crying in drum corps, and all of it is ok.

Look at the sky. Be in awe.
Before drum corps, you used to stay inside in the summer more than not. Now you are out for the early morning sunrises, the cloudless blue of noon, the purple black thunder clouds, the evening clouds stained pink by a falling red orb. When the stadium lights go out, stars appear in their place. Let sky appreciation be your norm.

Drink water until you feel like throwing up–you’re doing it right.
You’re going to feel nauseous for the next three months anyway, might as well be nauseous because you drank a lot of water.

Just as you have the power to be the one no one wants to cross, you have the power to be the one that makes everyone feel safe.
The way you choose to address others can be so negative and grating that they learn to fear what you have to say. Before you say anything to anybody, repeat it to yourself in your own head and think long and hard over whether you would want to be spoken to in that way.

Speak kindly, act compassionately, and people will be drawn to you for support and strength. You CAN be the person whom everyone trusts, no matter what kind of person you thought you were before. Do this, and you will have many friends.

Your personal best is never enough.
Trying your best is never enough. There is no other option; you MUST succeed in what you set out to do. And you will. You’ll defy every limit you once placed on yourself, delete every instance of “I’m not good enough”. It happens when you decide it will, and no sooner.

This sport will bring out the best and worse in you.
You’ll learn that you are stronger, faster, braver, and more capable than you ever imagined.

You’ll learn that you can be selfish, annoying, aggressive, bitchy, incapable of controlling your emotions. You’ll find that what you do or say to someone out of anger and inattention causes pain that you are responsible for inflicting.

You’ll learn that you are kinder than you once thought you would ever let yourself be. You’ll discover a budding loyalty within you that builds you into the kind of amazing someone you thought you’d never meet. And no matter how hard it is, you are now able to look someone in the eye and say you are sorry for what you did wrong.

Some days will break your heart.
After practicing and perfecting a part for days, it will be cut.

You’ll have the best personal show of your season only to be told that what you have done is not good enough. You have run out of time to be good enough.

Your best friend will turn against you and you will never get them back.

There are people in this activity who have been corralled together mid-season to be told that their corps is folding and their season is no more.

Some days will break your heart.

You will be angry at almost every person in the corps at some point and you will forgive almost all of them.
Almost nothing your mind thinks or feels in the drum corps bubble will be logical by real life standards. Emotions are blown out of proportion, reason is disabled, and there is no time to piece anything back together that falls apart. It isn’t until after the end of tour that things will reach homeostasis again.

The dome will take your breath away and you must fight to take it back.
This isn’t what they told you. That your final performances would flow out of you, that you’d be on auto-pilot.

No. On the field level, the dome is silent. You’ll look up to the side and see all those people, the 10 or 10,000 that there are. They are all looking down at you, watching your every move. You won’t hear them, no matter what dull roar they make. You’ll enter the field with a ringing in your ears. The ringing won’t stop, not even when the silence is broken by shouts of your name, eerily distant and incoherent, echoing down from the 600 level.

The silence will defeat you if you let it. It will scare you. It will threaten to shrink you. And you can’t let it shrink you. If you’re scared, you have to fight back at it. You need to stand taller and project more than you ever have before. This is a battle to the very sweaty, teary-eyed, bloody end and you have no choice but to win.

Few people you meet in your life will ever be as close to you as the people you shared the field with.
You ran across 115 degree turf in Texas together, praying for water. You were stuck together on the side of the highway in the middle of the night on the bus that broke down. Finals come, thousands of people stood up for you, and you held each other and cried everything away in an Indianapolis parking lot.

The people in the real world won’t ever understand what happened to you. You will drift away from them.
Your seat partner will be the first to know when your heart is broken. Three quarters of the people in your ageout year mellophone section will come to visit you years later in your brand new house, where you’ll all have a sleepover on the floor and laugh and tell stories until long after lights out.
Your drum corps friends will never be left behind, because no matter how old and removed from your marching years you get, you will always need each other.

When you get older, the feelings may fade but don’t forget that you are more important to others than you could ever imagine.
The marching arts are a safe haven, a magical bubble where all outside problems fade away and true living blossoms. Band is Christmas. Drum corps is Christmas.

As we age and become more experienced, the initial feelings of love and joy and carefreeness we felt in the bubble begin to fade and we are not as happy marching as we once were. Our friends age out and we are left to carry on without them.

You must remember–that if and when your feelings of Christmas slip away–and marching no longer makes you forget everything that went wrong in your life–your decision to keep marching WILL make a difference. You don’t know it, but there are so many people that march because of you and everything you stand for. You have become Christmas.

The memories are yours.
They’ll come back up at you when you least expect it. You’ll relive your entire finals performance while running your cart through the grocery store, unconscious to your surroundings. The mud runthrough will make you smile while you’re bailing your friend out of jail.

Your memories of drum corps are yours to keep. They will bring you to into a fetal position of laughter. They will keep you alive.

Your memories of drum corps are part of who you are.


12 thoughts on “What everyone should know about marching drum corps”

  1. Marching drum corps has had the ultimate biggest impact on my life, more than high school, college, everything….reading this made me experience all the emotions of this activity, and I would pay everything to go through it all again because it defined who I was as a human being.

  2. So very true, all of it! But I have noticed that the kinship extends far beyond the ones I marched with – I’ve seen that the bond is strong between the generations, too. When a group of alumns handed out alumni shirts to the age-outs one random day in July, the age-outs hugged us as tightly as I hugged them. We’re all Troopers regardless of when we wore the uniform.

  3. Reblogged this on kelseybibliophile and commented:
    My two favorite worlds are those of books and music.

    Books contain stories and reading those words allows me to experience the character’s emotions and take a journey with him or her. Obviously I’m not going to read War and Peace for some light beach reading; I decide what to read based on how I want to feel.

    Music tells a story too! I smile every time I hear Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon; I get all tingly every time Hard to Handle by The Black Crowes comes on. Too much information? 🙂 You go on journeys with music too. Musicals and operas are obvious answers (Hello! Ever heard of RENT?), but instrumental music like the The Planets, Op. 32: Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity by Holst makes me feel like I’m soaring through the sky. Other songs you’ll listen to when going to the gym because they pump you up!

    Books and music are two sides of the same coin in my mind because stories are not innately tangible. They need a medium. Books, voices, sheets of music, instruments… they’re equivalent to me.

    Drum and Bugle Corps (or drum corps for short) is like professional marching band. It’s INTENSE. There are no woodwinds, only brass and percussion. Corps travel the US all summer, sleeping on high school gymnasium floors, practicing outdoors up to 14 hours a day, every day but a few. They travel by coach and compete in stadiums all over the country. It’s like professional marching band… but they don’t get paid… they have to pay to do this. It’s life changing, though! The arts are an important aspect of life, just as libraries are an important part of any community.

    I adore this sport of drum corps.

    And yes… it is a sport.

  4. Patricia Fries/Korell marched with Kiwanis Kavaliers, one of 4 marching corps from the same city. says:

    I haven’t marched since 1986, I didn’t have the opportunity to age out marching, the mind and soul was willing but the body was not. Everything said here was so right on, it moved me to tears remembering all the truly best and worst times of my life with my marching brothers and sisters. Thank you for this.

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