A ‘Borg and a Baritone #4: Knights, Brass, and Tradition – Oh, My!

Saturday, December 8th, 10:37 PM
I’ve been pretty fortunate, when it comes to participating in Drum & Bugle Corps, although my path hasn’t exactly been a ‘traditional’ one.

First Tryout: 2000 Phantom Regiment
I made my first solo trip out of the Louisville area in the late Fall of 1999, to travel to Rockford, Illinois. This was the home of my favorite Drum Corps: The Phantom Regiment. It was my “age-out” year for the Drum Corps International (DCI) circuit, so I had only one shot to make the group. While I didn’t make the group, it was still a fun weekend. In perfect hindsight, I should have tried out in 1998 – that way, if I missed the group, I would have an idea on what to improve on for next time.

2017-2010: Derby City Knights (Baritone/Contrabass)

“The Four Horsemen”

It would be 7 years before I had another chance at a Drum & Bugle Corps. This time, it was a new corps that was starting up in my hometown – Louisville! This was extra exciting for me because I was still actively playing and marching at the University of Louisville, possibly giving me a better chance to make the group.
I made the group on Baritone and begin what turned out to be a really fun, good, and interesting year. For starters, we played on G Bugles: if I played what would normally be a concert ‘F’ on a B flat horn, it sounded like a concert ‘D’ below the ‘F’. It took some adjustment to playing that horn, especially when I had a Pep Band gig with UofL on the same day (it happened a few times; it was not unusual for me to show up to one of the two with 2 horns). Derby City fell victim to a rule that I think Drum Corps Associates (DCA) still has: if your corps has up to 21 members, you are considered a “Mini Corps” and competed with Mini Corps rules; if you had over 35 members, you were a full-sized corps; DCK sat at about 30 for most of the first half of 2017, before declaring as “Mini Corps”, losing most of the Honor Guard and Color Guard. While I don’t know what scores (if any) we got, we performed on the DCA circuit at DCA Nashville, DCA Georgia (Douglasville) and DCA Alpharetta, and DCA Racine, plus an exhibition at Adair County High School in Kentucky, and the DCA World Championships in Rochester, NY. We finished 14th out of 17th (with a puzzling 67 score from one judge, dragging down a 71, 77, and an 81, to a 74 final score) to cap off a great weekend and great season.

2008, I switched to Contrabass. DCK focused on getting a show on the field, with an influx of students from Brandenburg. We also went to B Flat horns. Unfortunately, that season was marred with rotating members and promises of “checking out the corps”. We did put on some decent performances: Nashville (not a great one), Racine (good, even in the crazy wind), Alpharetta (ok; a few of us were sick), and Leitchfield, KY (to end our season; we skipped Finals).
2009 was our best year, by far. Instead of being a field corps or a Mini Corps, we instead focused on music and a smaller, but dedicated, group; we classified as a 10-member-and-under Brass Ensemble. We had 3 Trumpets, 2 Mellophones, 3 Baritones, and 1 Tuba. Our show would only be 3-4 minutes but we didn’t have to worry about who would no-show rehearsals. I switched back to Baritone, the corps moved to Danville, KY (we started in Louisville, went 45 minutes north to Carrollton, then went to Brandenburg in 2008), and we got some needed help from the Danville area. We didn’t perform in any DCA events but we did have a performance or 2 in-state. We went to DCA World Championship in Rochester with our Ensemble show, a Soprano/Trumpet soloist, a Soprano Duet, and a Brass Quartet:

  • Our Soloist, Stephen Bottom, finished with a Silver Metal
  • Our Duet won the Gold Metal
  • Our Brass Quartet won the Gold Metal
  • And our full Brass Ensemble finished with a score of 96 and the Bronze Metal (The Racine Kilties Baritone Choir won the Championship with a 98)

It was an amazing weekend!
2010 saw us stay as a Brass Ensemble but with 6-7 members. We also moved from Danville to LaGrange, KY, about 20 minutes north of Louisville. It saw me sidelined for 3+ months. I had major heart surgery in February 2010, to replace 2 infected heart valves. I returned in May. We repeated a similar schedule as 2009, capping it with a 5th place finish (score of 92) at World Championships, a Championship in Brass Trio and Solo Trumpet. The season, for me, felt “incomplete”, though.

2013: Minnesota Brass (Euphonium)

It would be 2 1/2 years before I got my next shot at Drum & Bugle Corps. January 2013, I traveled to Minneapolis, MN, to the “Opening Night” for the Minnesota Brass Drum & Bugle Corps (I also went up in 2012, but realized early that money derailed that season before it started). I’ve written quite a few times about the good times and experiences I had up there (just scroll back to the early days of this blog, for starters….); money, again, derailed that season, but it had help in the form of 1 job in Louisville running out of work (I worked for a place that translated documents; most of our work came from GE… which slows down in the spring and summer), no luck finding a temporary job in Minneapolis, and an apartment that panned out too late. I help out in a parade in Morristown, Minnesota, but that was the extent of my “tour”.

2019: Cincinnati Tradition (?)

It’s now very late 2018, over 5 years since I was with Minnesota Brass, 3 years since I had rehearsed with any ensemble (I helped a friend with a group rehearsal). I’ve had 2 rehearsals with Cincinnati Tradition (“CT”) under my belt. As I knock on my wooden computer desk, this feels… different.
In a good way.
For starters, this current job is much more stable – income and hours – than the jobs I had in 2013. For these pre-Spring CT camps, I won’t have to miss any work, unless I ask to come in an hour or 2 late on the following Monday; in 2013, I would either miss 3 days of weekday work (rehearsals happened on Wednesday; I would leave Tuesday morning, on the bus, and return late Thursday afternoon) or 2 weekday/2 weekend days (for weekend camps, I would leave Friday, just after midnight, and get home on Monday evening).
I also, so far, can afford the costs of travel and the yearly tour fee. I’m paying small chunks every camp, plus I plan on making larger payments when camp falls on a non-rent pay check.
Where the majority of my excitement falls is with CT itself. There is a vibe with this group that I felt with MBI and with the ’07 and ’09 Knights: the folks with Cincinnati Tradition genuinely seem like they want to be there, whether it’s Staff, Volunteers, or the performers. And while I’m still learning names and faces, most of the people I’ve met have been pretty cool/friendly… even the UC and UK fans. 😉 (I keed!)

It’s been an interesting journey in Drum Corps World to get to where I’m at now. I’m trying to knock off essentially 5 years of “ring rust”, while getting back into ‘marching conditioning’. Dropping 28 pounds this year certainly has helped – now, I have to build up the physical endurance even more. Playing-wise, the breathing and breath control is coming around. I’ve actually had my mouthpiece with me at work, blowing 8-12-16-20 count air through it (and getting a few questions from co-workers lol). Tying it all together is the big challenge, but I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully, this section of my Drum & Bugle Corps journey will be a fun, successful, multi-year one!

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