My First Taste of Drum Corps

Looking back at this picture it’s hard to think that I knew nothing of the summer that I was about to experience.  In this picture I’m holding a good luck card from my bandmates from high school wishing me all the best at my first audition camp.  I recall standing in the airport with my mom staring at the card because it was the only concrete detail I had in my Academy experience.  My only guaruntee was that I was going to board a plane to Phoenix.

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When I finally landed in Phoenix that Friday I found my ride that was provided to me by The Academy association, and I spoke the entire drive to other kids just like me who were auditioning.  I wasn’t sure of how badly I wanted to make the audition until far later in my Academy journey.  We reached the housing site (a very generous high school) and I was overcome with disorientation.  How was I supposed to sleep, eat, and shower?  All of the basic necessities were going through my mind, but one question that kept recurring was “Why am I here?”  I had no doubt in my mind that I wasn’t good enough, and multiple times during that weekend I felt like I belonged back on the other side of the country.

Overwhelmed.  I was overwhelmed with drum corps and the real rehearsals hadn’t even started yet.  That Friday night we played through the brass packet I was provided with, and the attention to detail was far greater than I was used to.  Instrument in left hand, water jug (one gallon to be exact) in right hand, backpack on, feet at ninety-degree angle, and if one person was wrong the whole group was held back.  We were cut off multiple times after just seconds of playing, and people were told to readjust their things if spacing wasn’t perfect.  I started to think that The Academy mold was one I didn’t fit into.  Shower time was a huge surprise- over 100 girls waiting for a shower not wearing any clothes was a situation I had never been in.  And no one seemed to care- about themselves or other girls.  I was not cut out for this.  It was finally approaching bedtime and all 300 of the audition members blew up their air mattresses and sleeping pads and piled into the gym.  Yep, that’s drum corps.  I’ve been asked since I completed this season if I got to sleep in hotels, and I laugh at that question.

Saturday morning we were woken, introduced to the food truck, and promptly told to run a mile.  Then dance for two hours.  Then hurriedly eat (because you can practice during meal times, you know), march for two hours, play for one hour, eat dinner, and play for three more hours.  When I list the itinerary for a drum corps camp, it’s easy for the reader to simply read what I did, all within a matter of seconds.  But that Saturday was one of the longest days of my life.  It broke me physically and mentally.  I finished almost last at the mile (mental degradation number one) and ran the entire time (physical strain).  I was called out by the staff more than almost any other member.  My marching was easily distinguishable from others, I didn’t hold my horn the same way, I had never danced in my life, and I had no idea what a majority of the terminology was that was used at camp.  I was, to say the least, was not pleased with my audition, and was convinced that I would not get a call back asking me to continue with the audition process for a spot with The Academy.  I almost left Arizona feeling that I never wanted to come back- and wouldn’t be invited back by The Academy anyway.

But Sunday was what changed my mind.  We had a show-and-tell performance for loved ones where we performed our Intro music and warm-ups.  I had never been apart of a group that strove for such a high level of excellence.  I saw my mom crying in the crowd because, in her words, she had “never heard anything like drum corps.”  I didn’t realize the impact the music I was playing was having on other people, and I didn’t realize the impact The Academy was having on me.

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