Drum and Bugle Corps Adventures

So, the posts on this entry will be mixing some of the Notes on different subjects that I’ve posted on Facebook over the last decade or so. And they will probably be LONG, so bear with me. 😉

This first one is of some of my many posts recalling my times on the Drum Corps Associates (DCA) circuit, with the Derby City Knights (based in Louisville, KY; 2007-2010; played the Baritone and Contrabass) and the Minnesota Brass (based in St. Paul, Minnesota; 2013; played the Euphonium). It may give you a window into one of my passions- Drum and Bugle Corps

December 10, 2006 [this was my 1st experience with the Knights]
*2-valved Baritone bugles… in the key of G… very interesting lol
*the above instruments are LOUD!!!
*there is a part of Maleguena that is written 3 ledger lines ABOVE the staff for Baritones!!!
*If we (UofL) played DCK’s show, with the brass line that we have… oh MAN!
All in all, a good weekend! (my lips are still swollen, though)
There were all sorts of folks, from different ages and backgrounds that tried out: a group from Central Hardin (including a Bari nicknamed “Tiny”- all 6’2″, 200 lbs.+ of him), a Mellophone that marched with Scouts from ’92-’96 but hasn’t played in 10 years (but doesn’t sound like he’s missed a beat), players from UofL, UK, and EKU, and a Percussionist who may be called to Iraq at any moment (he thought he would miss this camp b/c he was originally supposed to go overseas yesterday).
April 7, 2007 [Camp #6; at this time, I was also marching for the University of Louisville]

This was a shortened camp for me; I missed Saturday’s rehearsal.

Sunday was just a cleanup day- we worked a lot on “One More Time” plus made a few hits on the other 2 pieces. I’m a little surprised at how much better we sounded this time on it, compared to last time. I’m even more surprised at how good “Malaguena” sounded, compared to the last time we play a good chunk of it (3, 4 camps ago?). Plus, we played the intro for the 1st time since January, so I’m a happy Bari player! 😉

Speaking of parts, I’m switching to 3rd part on 2 songs (better coverage on parts).

All in all, a really good Sunday. Brass and Percussion are sounding great. Guard looked good today (one of the few times that the brass has seen parts of the guard’s routine). Hopefully we can keep this momentum going into next camp! Plus, playing and being up at CCHS helped take my mind off of things for 9 hours and it helped some. Didn’t get the physical part of marching/warming up/stretching, though.

Oh well, from 4/28 (1st day of next camp) to 5/6 (last day of the following camp), I’m going to have plenty of chances for physicality: 6 of those 8 days, I’ll be playing and/or marching for a lot of hours each day (4/28-29: camp; 5/1 – Pegasus Preview; 5/2 – Great Steamboat Race (tentative); 5/3: Pegasus Parade; 5/5: KY Derby AND camp; 5/6: camp)!

May 21, 2007: Evaluation/Concert

So, Saturday’s rehearsal had an extra “tension” to it: the Drum Corps Associates’ evaluation board was there to watch/judge us. All new DCA corps go before this group; they look to see if 1) your group is actually playing the music (not taped), 2) they look at some behind-the-scenes stuff with the staff, 3) your size, and 4) how well you’re playing.

According to the staff, we impressed the board with our playing (they came in while we were rehearsing “One More Time…”, just a hair after we did a run-through). Their only complaint was some minor stuff behind-the-scenes (fundraising). I think we took their ruling and ran with it, because we knocked “One More Time” out of the park! Things seemed to click Saturday in Brass Arc- intonation, rhythms (what problems we had were fixed quickly), even tempo problems. However, when we put the full ensemble together and worked on Malaguena, Percussion had major tempo problems. I think it was because 3 of them had 2 concerts Sunday (one had 3)- us and CCHS/CCMS- and maybe they were a little nervous and/or excited (we don’t have a percussionist over 19). Overall though, it was a GREAT rehearsal. Lunch was fun, also – me, Jennifer, and Janean raided a playground across from CCHS. So much fun.

The corps’ Hometown Pizza dinners are becoming the stuff of legend LOL! Some of the things that happen there… WOW! All I have to say is “did your chicken come with a box?” and “Pretty Bird!” 😉

Sunday was concert day. We woodshedded Malaguena that morning- mainly trying to fix tempo problems and trying to get our snare player to watch the drum major (other 2 snares had to miss camp). For the concert, we played our warm-up chorale, “One More Time, Chuck Corea (only Brass)”, and “Malaguena (full group)”. It sounded pretty good- Percussion and Brass locked in for the most part. The problem was tempo- WE. TOOK. OFF!! “One More Time” was about 25-30 clicks too fast. The ending of Malaguena was at 210- it should be at 185, I think lol. I think it was the rush/nerves of “the 1st public performance”. Not a big worry, though- it should correct itself. I think Malaguena was better on Sunday but “One More Time” was better on Saturday. But it was a good concert!

One thing that was strange with me: my left leg, from about mid-thigh to my knee, went numb for about 45 minutes on Saturday (it did it twice) and for a few minutes on Sunday. It didn’t hurt- it just went numb. I don’t know why. *shrugs*

We are now classified as a mini-corps; we couldn’t get the brass numbers up in time (we can still take people up ’til August, though). It also didn’t help that the guard no-showed again (3rd time in 4 camps). What this means is that we don’t march- we perform on a 60′ x 90′ stage. We can still have moving sets; it just won’t be on a marching field. The focus is music. It should be fun! It’s gonna be tough, though- the defending champions are GOOOOD! (Star United- alumni of Star of Indiana formed a mini-corps a few years ago)

August 5, 2007: DCA Nashville [The Knights’ 1st sanctioned show; edited]
Some of the quotes from this past weekend:
“You guys sound great! Anytime you need to use this facility, you are more than welcome!” -Band Director at Cumberland University in Lebanon, TN, during our rehearsal there on Sunday
“Derby City Knights: 11 brass. From the first note of the warm up, it was obvious that this was a “breath dah” group. They had a great sound. They took on charts that are NOT easy to pull off with a
small ensemble. They did a very good job with them. They managed to pull off a 96dB reading.” -from Drum Corps Planet
“DCK – heard you guys throughout the day and it sounded good. a challenging book for a first year group and handled admirably” -from Drum Corps Planet
“Derby City Knights (exh.) – DCK had about 10-12 in the hornline, and 4 percussion. They made a great stride in their first show – and you will see these guys on the mini-corps stage in Rochester this
fall. Their director was part of 2006 mini-corps champs Star United – and it showed. Their spanish-flavored show involved no drill, and at their early phase of development, didn’t need any. One of the big
challenges with a small hornline is establishing balance and playing with one distinct sound. They accomplished that important fundamental with flying colors with maturity and intensity. If carried through to future years, watch out, Class A, because these guys will be on a rampage.” -from Drum Corps Planet
“You guys did an amazing job tonight! Looking forward to seeing you in Rockmart [GA- 8/18] and Rochester!” -Contra line from Gulf Coast Sound
September 1, 2007
DCK: Endgame

Judges’ scores: 81, 77, 77, 67. Overall score: 75.5.

Well, the season is finally over. I love this group. Seriously. We have come along so far since the first camp in December and have grown together into a close-knit family. There are so many success stories: Dan Goldman and Dan Hubbard, who marched both DCK AND Star United (the 2-time defending champions); Brittany- Contra player who left and came back; Jennifer S.- Clarinetist who played Mellophone- most of the season by herself- and rocked all year, etc. So much stuff happened to us that could have derailed our whole season but we kept going. We lost our Guard bu kept going. We lost- and gained- a lot of players, rewriting parts and moving people around but we kept going. We went mini-corps instead of Class A but We. Kept. Going.

I will absolutely be back next year. For 9 months, I have spent many weekends with these men and women, sweating, bleeding (yes- bleeding; playing on chapped lips will do that to you), laughing, and all sorts of other stuff with them… and they have become my extended family. I would do anything for them and hopefully they feel the same way. I cannot wait until November when we start Season 2!

I will always remember this season- the inaugural season of the Derby City Knights!
March 30, 2008: “The Return Of Basey” [with the Knights; our director missed some time with a life-threatening diabetic attack; edited]
I missed all of the Saturday morning session b/c of ride issues… but it was a very good thing to see Matt back with Derby City when I got there during lunch!
The focus this camp was “Karn Evil 9”. We some serious woodshedding time on it- fixing tempos and balance, working out dynamics, finding pitches *coughmecough*, note lengths, and the whole 9 yards. In sectionals, Dan worked with me and Brittany on some really cool Contra runs/sections in the middle of the piece- they are some “stank in your face” licks that I think the audience will like once we take the field. 😉 The rest of the night was full ensembling KE9 again. I was definitely feeling it at the end, though; not stretching then going into 6 hours of rehearsing = SORENESS.
Hometown was fun, as usual. Somehow, a pan full of cheesesticks disappeared in about 2 minutes between myself, Brittany, Jennifer S., Katelyn, and Angela R. We still can’t figure out how they disappeared….
After that, a few of us watched the UofL-UNC game on the “big screen”. Wish the outcome was different but it was a good game.
September 4, 2009
DCA Finals [edited]
I think I can sum up today for the Derby City Knights: a HELL of a statement. The scores are in my status. The itty bitty corps from Louisville- the ones who didn’t make it in any division last year- finished with a 94, beating such DCA [Brass Ensemble] powers as The Renegades, Power Zone, and The Freelancers.
The crowd was absolutely into our show, both the visual and the audio. The goals I had for this weekend were reached pretty much: we medaled in every division… the Baris played as well as we have all season… and we proved that 2008 was a fluke. We also proved that 2007 was a fluke- we were and are better than that. Today will go a long way in helping out DCK… but we’re not stopping here. This is only the 1st step on the road to a DCA World Championship!!
Well, my phone died right after Mini corps and we just got back to the hotel after stopping off at Denny’s. We sat in front of Star’s victory arc and had our faces blown off. We are all running on fumes right now, though. It’s been a long season, capped off by Friday’s performances, and I think it’s finally catching up with us. And with that, it’s time to close this note. For those who took a few moments to read the comments I posted as a real-time blog, I- and DCK- thank you. Now it’s time for some much-needed sleep, a trip to Niagara Falls tomorrow afternoon, and the long drive home. Good night!!
January 12, 2013 [1st rehearsal with the Minnesota Brass]
I. The First Steps
Well, I made the trip again to Minnesota Brass’s Membership Night; unlike 2012, I will be able to make the rehearsals this season and hopefully tour with the group this spring and summer! *fingers crossed*
The best way to describe Membership Night is “controlled frenzy”. I got a taste of many parts of what could (or would) go into an MBI rehearsal, including: about 30 minutes of breathing and warmups (I don’t remember what the breathing exercise was called that Dr. Velasquez taught us but “head rush” doesn’t do the feeling afterwards justice LOL), 45-60 minutes of marching/visual techniques, and 30-45 minutes of full brass ensemble. On a self-critical note:1) I need to strengthen my ankle and/or get some marching shoes. It didn’t hurt (surprisingly!!) to do the visual stuff but it wasn’t totally comfortable. Part of that was probably the shoes (they are great for work, probably not the best for marching) but part was finally starting the healing process of the foot problem that plagued me for months. I’ll get them both fixed, though. 😉
2) I need to drop some excess fat/weight, starting with a diet change. I dropped about 10 pounds a few months ago but could probably drop another 10-15 to get into pretty decent shape again in the next few weeks. My endurance is ok but I’m just starting out- I have a good feeling that MBI will easily push the limits and carrying excess weight won’t help matters. The 1st steps in that are with the diet: I need to get back focused on the diet I was on when I was living alone.
3) AIR. Between now and the next rehearsal I can attend (1/23), I need to work on how much air is going through the horn. Where I’m at now isn’t enough (I may be a little harsh on myself), especially being a rookie. Sooo, I have to break out the breathing tube/machine that I used after my surgery, if I still have it packed away somewhere. **ugghh**
In all, it was a great evening for me, personally! There’s a TON of optimism going forward, in regards to what I can bring to the table, the fact that I can actually MAKE IT to the table lol (thanks again to MegaBus), and what the future may hold. Stay tuned!
January 24, 2013 [my 2nd camp with the Minnesota Brass; edited]

This trip was basically a tale of two halves.

There were so many delays, frustrations, and minor problems that plagued the ride up: the 45-minute-late bus from Louisville to Chicago that nearly cost me the 2nd bus; almost not getting on the 2nd bus b/c my reservation number was on my phone- which died in Gary, IN; hotel room not being ready; the cold/Wind Chill (painful temps when you are on blood thinners); and other things that I won’t bore you with. Needless to say, I was ready to eviscerate something with a rusty butter knife by early Wednesday afternoon. 😉

The rest of Wednesday was 180 degrees different, mainly because of rehearsal.

We did a lot of breathing exercises/conditioning to start with Dr. Velasquez. Visuals were next for the Low Brass: slides, basic forward/backward steps (making sure the foot angles, and body posture were correct), marching/blowing with horns, and some more advanced visual techniques (Jazz Running, for example). It had been since the ’08 season with Derby City since I’d had a full visual rehearsal block, so needless to say, I wasn’t exactly in condition for it. 😉 I got a lot of great feedback from the staff about different things to watch for and fix, some things I wasn’t aware that I was doing (for example, swinging my foot out when stepping off for a backwards march). I’m going to continue working on core strength and ankle strength- IMO, those are my two biggest physical weaknesses. I’ll be up to speed soon, hopefully 😉

After Visuals, it was sectional work and a final Full Brass sectional, working mainly on the opener. I was (…well, still am) exhausted but very happy with how the night ended.

Lessons learned throughout this trip:

1) Don’t underestimate Minneapolis’s wind. I’ve whined about it but a -20 WC isn’t something to get used to easily lol

2) Take the train more. It is so much easier to get around up here with just 1 Light Rail line, than it is in Louisville with none.

3) Keep buzzing. Buzzing on the mouthpiece has helped a lot. It’s simple but effective.

4) Effort. Always give it, even if you don’t always get the procedure right.

I just have to keep building from every practice: “make the next practice better than the last, in at least one way.” Up next are Evaluations- the Staff is going to look at your progression in a few areas and fine tune you on what you’re doing well and what you can fix. February 6th for sure, January 30th possibly, are the next trips up here. For now, it’s sleep and heading home Thursday afternoon… hopefully with few-to-no problems!! 🙂

May 21, 2013

“Primal” IX: Patience

(yes, at 2:30 in the morning- I can’t sleep again lol)

I’ve missed the last 2 Show Camp Weekends; from the way it sounds, they were pretty productive rehearsals (when Mother Nature wasn’t wrecking havoc on things). “Fortress” and “Ritual” are definitely on the field, “Sanctus” may be on the field (I know that we have the drill for it), and “Danza” is next in line.
While at home, I’ve been working on memorizing the music and sets. It has, however, been a very frustrating process, esp. lately. I’m not getting the sets in memory as quickly as I want to (or probably need to). I’m getting too distracted (for lack of a better description) by things that have suddenly started sprouting up within the last 3+ weeks: a move (with my Dad) crosstown that has had problems since day 1; missing money (and no clear answer from the KY Treasury as to where it is yet); my job at Kinetic not having projects/work since the end of April, and a few other things. I also need to switch to low-impact exercises b/c jogging and running have defeated the upper parts of my lower legs each and every time, while trying not to fit weeks of stuff into hours of working out.
Basically, I need to find my focus and patience again and this time, tie it down with wire. 😉
On the brighter side, I have found a park that seems to be a good place to at least work on tempos, movement, and posture (if not the actual drill, if I can spray paint yard lines), plus somewhere to study sets (out of the house and under a tree, for instance). I also have a possible apartment lined up for early June, if the guy subleasing it would ANSWER HIS EMAILS. *deep breath* I need to catch up quickly and being in the Minneapolis area for the summer is the only way that I can even attempt it; travelling will only leave me “treading water” and with this group and show, staying in the same place w/o much improvement won’t cut it.
Sooo… I have much to do, much to fix, and need the patience (that I normally have) to do both. I’m accepting any and all good wishes, good vibes, distraction-killers, and good thoughts sent my way lol.

Summer is coming. 😉

July 20, 2013

“Primal” XII: Season Ends Early [edited]

...for me, not the group.

After my last note (about 5 weeks ago?), I had found an apartment in the Como area of Minneapolis; it was a sublease from a guy that not only knew about Minnesota Brass but has friends in the group. Rent was pretty good and I was originally set to move in on July 8th (moved it back to July 21st to give my brother time to rent a van and get a little extra money). I was also working solo on the 2 tunes that I didn’t know all of the drill to: “Ritual” (knew about 10 of the 50+ sets) and “Sanctus” (knew 4 of the 22 sets). “Ritual” was a bit of a pain, “Sanctus” was coming along pretty nice.

However, my job at Kinetic was into a slow period. Basically, the division of Kinetic that I’m in gets about 75-90% of our work from GE; they haven’t sent us much of anything for the better part of 2 months… the absolute worst time for me, personally. Combine a lack of a paycheck for 3 of the last 4 pay periods (twice a month)- the 4th being under $50- with an expensive trip to rehearsals in mid-June and my checking plus savings for the season quickly went away. With minimal luck with the job search up there (including Target), I couldn’t afford the August rent for the MN apartment, tour dues, and travel costs to Downington/Racine/Annapolis. So I had to quit Minnesota Brass on July 18th. Walking away from MBI, after the amount of work put in and being so close to making it up there for the rest of the summer, was and is one of the worst feelings that I’ve had in many years. 😦

What now for the cyborg? Well, I have to decide to either come off of LOA from Lowe’s or look somewhere else. I will hang on to Kinetic as a 2nd job for the time being, esp. if things pick back up in the next 10 days. I also am making it my sole mission to get to Annapolis for DCA Finals in September to see and support Brass in person. After that, I gear up and save up for January 2014.

Well, there are just some of the many recaps and thoughts that I’ve written over the years on my Drum and Bugle Corps experiences. I hope it wasn’t too long or too boring for you!

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