This weekend my husband and I are looking forward to attending a Drum Corps show at Stanford Stadium -- DCI West. In anticipation of this I thought it fitting to release two images from a personal photography project I am working on. More to come!
This portrait is of Daniella, a current member of the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum & Bugle Corps, a corps that both myself and my husband were members of. We will be rooting for Daniella this weekend as we spend time relishing old friendships and celebrating the current performers. I know that as I step out of the car at the show site on Saturday the distant sound of drum lines and horn lines warming up will send me right back into time, rekindling memories from my years spent in the color guards of the Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets, Santa Clara Vanguard and the Concord Blue Devils. There are many sounds and smells that jerk me from the present and throw me back into the past.
The smell of a large grassy field sends me back to those long days of rehearsal as we perfected our shows in the blaring sun.
A diesel truck will drive past me and the smell whips me back to some balmy evening in a parking lot after a show. Muscles aching, but spirits high as I carefully pack away my uniform and prepare for another long bus ride to the next city on our 6 week tour.
The buzz of the lights in a gymnasium and the smell of it's freshly waxed floor will remind me of precious sleep interrupted as we all would pull our groggy selves from our sleeping bags and lumber to breakfast served from an 18 wheeler.
The roar of a stadium full of people gives me goose bumps as I remember what it is like to perform with my comrades with all our hearts and bask in the enthusiastic applause of the audience.
Even the smell of sunscreen brings back memories for me!
Drum corps is such a unique activity that it really can not be compared to anything else. Those of us who marched always feel at a loss to explain what it is like to those on "the outside". When we meet others who have marched there is often an instant connection. It feels like we share some secret handshake or something. It really is vastly different from marching band or playing a sport which are what most people are familiar with and try to compare it with.
This is my meager attempt at explaining it....It is traveling ALL summer with a roughly 135 member family of performers geared towards being the best we can possibly be. Rehearsals are run with militaristic intensity by the instructors. There is much in the way of hardships, blood, sweat and tears (literally), but the personal growth, endless devotion to doing something well, and exhilaration of performing transcended all those difficulties. Friendships are molded by a shared devotion to greatness and bonds formed for life. Many of us would experience withdrawals upon returning home from tour. Your alternate reality and consistent routine for the last three months abruptly stops and suddenly you are thrust back into the "real" world.
(Blue Devils 1997)
I have never experienced anything as exhilarating and intense as drum corps and I presume that I will never experience anything like it again. It has left a permanent mark on me with values I will carry with me for the rest of my life. So let me leave you with the five most poignant things that I experienced during my time as a drum corps performer.
1) How to Practice: I tend to beat myself up quite a lot when the things I produce aren't perfect. Perfectionism is a plague. But what helps me gain some level of calm is to remember how many times I had to practice throwing my flag, rifle or saber in the air, and how many times I had to drop it before that skill became second nature to me. It takes time, patience and persistence to become good at anything.
2) How to stick with something: I was honestly really lazy before my time in drum corps. The physical and mental endurance required in the activity taught me that while hardships may be great the rewards are far greater. Keep trudging up that mountain. Eventually you WILL get to the top.
3) To not accept mediocrity in the things that matter: In drum corps we were expected to put out nothing less than our best. We did so because what we were doing had a sense of meaning. We were perfecting a skill, competing with other corps and providing joy for the people who came to watch us perform.
To do work that has purpose and meaning is not a superfluous desire, it is a need for a human's sense of well-being. It is empowering. This is a vast topic that I will would like to explore in a later blog post. We obviously can't put 110% into every single thing we do. To expect such would be not only exhausting but would be putting unnecessary stress on ourselves. But I do see a lot of people and organizations that accept WAY too much mediocrity. This, in my opinion, causes existential harm to individuals and society.
4) Belonging: The friendships that I developed from my years in drum corps are some of the most fulfilling I have ever had. The level of trust and reliance we had to have with each other was great. And there were moments we shared that can only be described as spiritual. It is fundamental to a human being's sense of happiness to belong to something greater. Drum corps gave that to me in spades.
5) How important it is to savor the present moment: We had an instructor who would occasionally stop us after running a certain set of the show during rehearsal, and tell us to "savor the moment". There would be a few moments of total silence as we stood there at attention. I would notice the way the ground felt under my feet, how the wind felt across my body, what the clouds looked like in the sky and I could sense my friends surrounding me. This has stuck with me all these years later.
To really be in the present moment and savor it very difficult. The monkey mind wants to jump all over the place most of the time and worry about the future. But whenever I do experience being in the present moment fully, that can only be described as bliss. There were numerous times I experienced this on tour while performing and those moments are indelibly burned into my memory.
If you marched drums corps, please share with me the experiences that were most poignant for you in the comments section below or on Facebook.