Calling all drum corps members: drummers, guard members, and horn players alike. If you have been out of practice, it is high time to get back in shape! This season is going to materialize before you know it and you had better be ready. The first few times out on the stage, field or street this season will give us all a tremendous psychological boost. Will you be ready?

The lack of almost all live music over the past 12 months has been a horrible experience; it was stopped dead in its tracks. One could hardly make up this storyline. When performing live, no matter at what level, performers and members of the audience gain an experience that is a bit indescribable. Both gain a certain satisfaction that can’t be duplicated in other aspects of life. Music performance is stochastic – the variables change constantly and are never the same each time. Therefore performance is something we crave because each one adds a new and different experience to our lives.

Many corps members I have spoken to this winter have mentioned they have not touched their instruments since the gigs and rehearsals abruptly ended. It is hard to get interested in practicing when there are no gigs on the horizon. A good example – changing the subject momentarily: How many parents have you talked to over the years that buy their kid a guitar or drum set, then put them in lessons, and before you know it they tell you the kid never practiced and therefore quit? The reason is the kid has nowhere to go to play. Much better to be in a school band program from an early age where they have regular rehearsals and concerts. The kids always have something to look forward to.

When it comes to getting back into shape, this author has a boatload of experience. And this is not necessarily a plus since most good players rarely take time off and therefore never have to start back from scratch. I am in my 53rd year on the trumpet and bugle. I rarely played in the summers through junior high, senior high and into my sophomore year of college. Getting back in shape from scratch was a regular occurrence. Hard to believe for someone who was majoring in music and had professional aspirations! Following sophomore year, I played in senior corps and did so through graduate school, which kept the horn on my face for the duration of those summers.

Following school I then took a job as the administrator for the Empire Brass Quintet in Boston. And guess what? There was very little time to stay in shape. After two whirlwind years, and likely never being able to play very much again had I stayed, I made a decision to get back in shape and take an audition. This for the Hellcats of the West Point Band. Things fell perfectly and I was able to get the job. And guess what again? From the point of swearing in to the US Army, going through boot camp, and showing up at the band building at the Academy, I hadn’t played a note in 2 ½ months. It was time to climb that mountain again.

 

For this player it takes about 2 weeks to go from scratch to being able to play in the presence of others. Drummers may have a similar routine – here is mine: Pick a point about two weeks in advance of the first rehearsal. On the first day, give it the college try for 5 or 10 minutes and then put it away. Day two will be the worst. Play 10 to 15 minutes expanding in range and flexibility and again put it away for the day. Continuing this pattern, in a week’s time you should be able to play for a good 30 minutes. In two weeks’ time you will be ready.

Contrast this to what you see all the time in the horn line at rehearsal. Many players haven’t opened the case since last season and then wonder why they can’t get through the book. A little bit of timing really helps and keeps the pain to a minimum.

2018 Hanover Lancers

Hanover Lancers, 2018

Having said all this, here’s to the upcoming season! The Hanover Lancers drum line has been holding impromptu rehearsals this winter and the horn line is making plans to get outdoors as soon as the weather cooperates. Hopefully other corps are following suit. See you at a show sometime this season!

The Czar invites you to submit your ideas for “change for the betterment of drum corps”; however the decisions of the Czar are final. No ideas will be considered without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball and Drum Corps TV Network, if it exists.