My Drum Corps Experiences

In the middle of all my years in marching band I spent a few marching in drum corps. This wasn’t as much of a family tradition as marching band was. My sister and I were the only ones to do it.

My first memory of drum corps, and really any type of marching art, was when my sister was in her second year of corps. We went to one of the shows and I got to see it all live. She was in a small group that was based maybe 45 minutes from our house, but it was cool to me no matter what the size.

My junior year of high school, I finally joined a group about an hour and a half from where I lived at the time. I had found it a few years before but I wasn’t able to find the money or transportation to get to it. I wish I had known sooner they would help find transportation for me and there would be plenty of fundraising to make sure I am able to march.

I missed the first rehearsal camp because my sister died a week before it so I was hesitant to go to the second, since I thought I had missed my chance to audition. I did make it to the second camp and auditioned for bass drum.

It was quite the culture shock. I had always been one of the better performers in drumline since I put so much time outside rehearsal into not only practicing my parts but also researching different techniques and improving my abilities. I had also only been in small town drumlines before this so I wasn’t used to having more than 3 snare drums. I got there and was by far the least experienced one there.

When I got to the third camp they moved me to the front ensemble to play the racks because they were expecting someone else to take the spot I was trying for on the bass line. That person didn’t show up so they put me back on bass.

In terms of playing and marching, that summer was the most fun I’ve ever had. I learned so much and had a great time doing so. I just wish I had gotten to know everyone better. I still see some of them at marching band shows but never say anything because I don’t know if they’ll remember me since I was so introverted.

My second year in the corps they moved me to tenors because they had seen me at marching band shows playing them. I was pretty excited because I had wanted to play them there for years. I was also looking forward to playing with one of the guys who I had really looked up to the previous year.

That guy ended up quitting after the first or second rehearsal. I don’t remember the details but I was pretty upset when I found out. I didn’t really enjoy the season much after that.

I missed one rehearsal early in the season when we were still learning music because I had something for my dead sister. That ended up being the same weekend they brought someone from out of town to help out for one rehearsal. He said I should be cut from the line because I wasn’t dedicated enough. Apparently I should have cared more about the drumline I was going to be in for one year instead of my family. I stayed on the tenor line. I think the rest of the staff knew how ridiculous that guy was being.

There was also one person on the tenor line who I don’t think knew all the music, or maybe learned it wrong. They never played the same show twice and we had to hope we were going to sound good with the mistakes. But he played louder than us so we got yelled at for not knowing our parts when we didn’t play the same thing as him, even when we were playing the same thing as each other.

By the end of the season I had pretty much given up and didn’t play in some parts because I knew I was going to get yelled at whether I did or not. It didn’t help that I was also really sick for the last couple weeks of the season.

The next year I took a year off. I went to a couple rehearsals and played bass drum but my heart wasn’t in it. I don’t remember exactly what I did that summer but I think it might have been the summer when I first played percussion for a local opera company.

The year after that I was set to march again. I was really excited to be playing bass again since I had graduated high school and was teaching so I didn’t have as many chances to perform. We had a decent showing for the drumline but we couldn’t get any brass or front ensemble members so the corps folded after the third or fourth rehearsal.

There was another corps about the same distance from my house but in a different direction. I decided I wanted to go there and march snare since I had never done so before and I didn’t feel comfortable teaching traditional grip without having formal experience marching with it.

The drumline had more of a family feel to it for me so it was a really fun summer overall. But there were a couple things I wish had happened differently.

The day of our first competition, there was a snare feature and we didn’t all gave it so it was offered that I play it as a solo. I was hesitant so they ended up having me and the center snare play it without the rest of the line. We got to that spot in the show and he messed up the beginning which threw me off and I messed up the end of it. I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t have messed it up if it had been just me but I always look back at the first performance when we butchered our feature.

During warmups for that same show was one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever experienced in any drumline. We were playing through one of the easiest parts of the show and another drumline walked by. Since we had a few less experienced players, they recognized the drumline and got nervous about being watched. That part of the show has never sounded worse than that moment. The staff yelled at them for “shitting the bed” just because someone walked by. I completely agreed with the staff.

The next season I was going to march tenors but I needed to find some kind of job over the weekend instead. They offered to give me the tenor tech position so I took it. I also ended up 

marching snare again. There weren’t too many stories that stuck out that year, but we did go on a trip to do some parades that I remember being a fun trip but I don’t remember many details. I do remember the bus breaking down as we were about to leave the last parade to come home.

The next summer I took a year off again. I went back the following year and after switching instruments a couple times to be able to play with my students I ended up as center tenor. Coincidently, the tenor tech had worked with the drum corps my sister was in and he remembered her. Unfortunately, I hurt my back at work and wasn’t able to finish the season. They ended up having an undefeated season that year.

There have been a couple times I’ve wanted to go back and march a lighter instrument or be in front ensemble for that corps and another local one where one of my former students teaches. I just can’t really convince myself to do so with the other things I have going on. With marching band, winterguard, and everything else I need my summer weekends to be able to get things done at home.

If anyone is reading this and knows me it is very obvious who I am even though I didn’t mention specific groups or years. I’m sure it would be possible to probably figure out which groups these were based on the relative time frames and then figure out who I am. But please don’t.


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