This is generally how I plan my life: if I’m available, I’m up for it. And tonight, we were up for discovering Drum Corps International (DCI) performing in neighboring Pennsylvanian town, Allentown. Our friend Mike from Canada was in town for the DCI show, and happened to have a few extra tickets (thanks Mike!). A year ago when Mike found out we were moving to Philly, he was so excited: we would be close to Drum Corps in Allentown, and in his eyes, living the dream. I had no idea what Drum Corps was, so I pulled the old smile and nod. Fast forward to today, we jumped at the opportunity to be introduced to this drumming world by one of its biggest fans. I still didn’t know what we were in for: I envisioned a night of Bring It On and Drumline, but little did we know that we were about to uncover what could be the heartbeat of America.
We settle down in our seats. Everyone is telling us we will love it, so we continue to smile and nod. What we do know at this point is that it’s a hot summer evening. There is a friendly buzz in the air. Although the bleachers aren’t filled, it’s a pumped up crowd. It felt energized and positive: I could tell that those who were here really wanted to be here. It felt like a community. Even I felt connected.
The show begins, and instantly, we all lean forward in awe. It’s like watching automated toys dance in store window at Christmas, when it’s actually 13-21 year old kids dancing, throwing, playing, marching, and conducting their hearts out. Everything is choreographed to the step, with nothing out of line. This isn’t the Norwood High School Band.
Notice the precision. The flow. And the money that clearly went into each performance… The costumes, the equipment (everyone brought their own AV system), the instruments. One could argue that it’s maybe too elaborate (moving trees, a stage coach!), but it makes for quite an impressive show! Props aside, the scoring comes down to how unified the team is, and how many tricks they can pull off successfully. As the night goes on, each team got better and better. It was like being at a big Broadway dance show… only in a football field.
So the team I’m cheering going forward is the Cavaliers. Bonus that they are the only all boys team, but really, for me, their performance is tight, and on point. The music is intense. And unlike others, their performance tells a story, making a comment about propaganda and its influence, which is especially relevant with the American election going on. People run with headlines and media clips, without knowing the whole story. We fight over issues we don’t fully understand. Now, try marching a band to that story: see below. Boom.
As mentioned before, what felt amazing was being part of the crowd: the fans. It was like nothing I’ve experienced before, especially at a sporting event. Even though many are sporting their favorite team’s gear, there is a sense that everyone is a winner tonight. It
really is a community coming together. No booing, no heckling. Just a good night out at the old ball (drum) game. Just look at this guy. He loves it!
So Drum Corps International: It’s a bunch of kids working overtime, giving it their all, sleeping on buses to get up the next day to perform again. It’s the parents, and community coming out in droves to cheer them on from the bleachers and sidelines. It is Drumline and Bring It On, only… better.
What was special to me about this night was how we gathered at a football field in small town America, to watch a sport that is scored on drumbeats, choreography, and creativity. No balls being tossed, no charging others. Lots of horns blowing, musket tossing, lots of noise, and really tight pants. This got me reflecting on my high school experience where I couldn’t see myself in the sports arena, but I did find myself in the band room, and on the stage. To me, this is the sport for all those kids who couldn’t see themselves in sports. And it’s a sport that the nation embraces whole heartedly. Pride, celebration, spirit, and skill. Everyone is trying for a brighter tomorrow. If we don’t succeed, at least we gave it our best, and we’ll try again. There’s more than just football and baseball that makes America great: there’s Drum Corps.
So in closing, as they close many grand speeches here in the US of A: God bless America, and God bless men in tights and a good beat.
Sept 3 2016 Editor’s note: please note the following corrections- uniforms (not costumes), riffles (not muskets), sabers (not swords), and corps (not band). I think that’s the corrected lingo. Comment below if there is anything I missed 🙂
That’s it! Clear the stage!
Song of the Day: Roxanne (as performed by the Carolina Crown)