Students join marching league

Beth Rozacky

     With summer vacation comes the lackadaisical dog days where motivation to even leave the house is difficult to manage. Very few people can see themselves running around in the boiling sun for hours on end or practicing exhaustingly repetitive activities with military precision day in and out. Astonishingly enough, there is a small group of highly motivated individuals who not only want to partake in both of these impossibly strenuous activities, but will also sacrifice their entire summer to participate in the backbreaking experience. These brave (some might say crazy) souls, march Drum Corps.

     The band world is strange enough to most “outsiders,” and some of the unique quirks of the program are truly baffling: some, for instance, find marching band a completely incomprehensible activity. These cynics might be surprised to know that there is an even more dedicated marching force outside of this school, in the form of Drum Corps International, or DCI. This program encompasses many divisions, including open class, international class and 22 world-class corps. It also serves as the summer job for two Cedar Park seniors who’ve previously competed in this program, Katie Rozacky and Jorge Lopez. All involved compete to the highest degree of competition and are recognized as the preeminent authority on marching performance, technique and quality.  Those involved in the program are exposed to the highest levels of music and marching education.

     “DCI is known to be called ‘marching band on steroids.” Jorge Lopez, senior, said. “It is bigger, better and louder than high school and college marching bands, and much more in your face.”

     The basic ingredients of brass instruments, color guard, drums and other percussive devices are all present as in any regular marching ensemble, but with some major exceptions.

     “There is no eight hour rule in drum corps and they can make you rehearse as long as they want,” Lopez said. “There would be days we would wake up at seven, rehearse all day, and not go to bed until midnight. Then we would have to wake up and do it again the next day.”

     This intense work schedule is born from the extremely high level of competition and the physical demand of the activity. Performers on the field are judged not only on the visual pictures on the field and the musicality of the performance, but also on the demand of a show. Because of this, corps members must also be top-notch athletes being that the physical element of the activity is a necessity. Work starts in “Spring Training” with 12 to 14 hour rehearsal blocks and continues on the annual summer tour. A typical tour clocks up to 10,000 road miles and more than 35 live performances. With so much work and punishment, it’s a wonder how many people strive to earn a spot in a top-tier corps. More than 8,000 audition for about 3,500 available spots. Even with the supreme workload, current corps members keep coming back for more.

     “People want to be a part of something that has the capability of being perfect,” Katie Rozacky, senior, said. “Drum corps is that something. It’s the feeling I get when I am a part of something so good, and the friends that have become another family to me, keep me coming back.”

     It is the promise of experiences and memories like these that entice newcomers to the program. This summer Adam Mothersole and Matt Garrison, juniors, will be joining the ranks of DCI.  The two auditioned for positions in two different world-class corps and received coveted spots.

     “I heard about DCI my sophomore year.” said Mothersole. “It sounded like an amazing experience. Just to be sure I went to see a live show. Afterwards I knew that I wanted to be a part of it, and decided to try-out for the Santa Clara Vanguard.”

     Going into a summer of completely new experiences can be a frightening prospect. The first time around can be an arduous uphill climb towards goals of perfection and excellence. There is a fair amount of trepidation felt by this year’s newbies concerning the summer tour.

     “I’ve been told what this summer might be like but I haven’t gone through it yet,” Mothersole, said. “I’m nervous about how hard it’s really going to be and I just hope I can last.”

      Motivations run deep for those who try out for a corps. Lopez, who marches in a world-class corps (the Santa Clara Vanguard out of Santa Clara, California) plans on returning to DCI for a second season.

     “I first heard about drum corps and the Santa Clara Vanguard back in my freshman year,” Lopez, said. “I began to watch videos of the corps and wanted to be part of it since then. I admired how confident they were, their look, the music they played and how they moved. Everything about them was so aggressive and intense. I wanted to be just like that.”

     Those lucky few that earn the honored spots in world-class corps find the experience of just one summer tour a momentous, life-changing event. Repeated mantras of successes and excellence echo beyond the performance field, and standards of quality and hard work extend to every facet of day-to-day life. Also, after three months in the company of the same 150 faces, it’s only natural for intense bonds of family and friendship to form.

     “Vanguard is more of a personality and lifestyle than an activity,” Lopez said. “It represents confidence, excellence and class which I strive to be everyday. It has given me many friends that have become my brothers and sisters that I know will be there for me no matter what.”

     Embracing the lifestyle of DCI extends beyond an increase in marching or playing ability. The “drum corps mentality” works very well in guiding future choices in all aspects of life. For some, it can completely re-write even the best laid plans. For Rozacky, who marches with the world-class Carolina Crown of Fort Mill, South Carolina, this is particularly true. 

     “I went into the season planning on being a biomedical engineer major, and when I came home, I changed to music education.” said Rozacky.

     With the DCI summer tour quickly approaching, excitement grows for the retuning veterans. Calendar days are counted-down and practice regiments checked-off in preparation, every day growing closer to a return to the activity they love. This summer even more students will attempt to join the ranks of drum corps across the country, all hoping to earn the stories and experiences of their veteran peers. It’s no doubt that the lessons of drum corps will stick with these talented musicians for the rest of their lives.