Drum Corps = Love and Family in Carolina

August 1, 2019

Steve setting the rhythm.

You know those word salad diagrams that visually demonstrate the key words describing a topic, the larger ones being the one more often used? Well, I think the words LOVE and FAMILY would be very prominent among the array of the other obvious words that aptly describe the drum and bugle corps activity such as dedication, excellence, etc. I have just returned to my second annual visit to North Carolina and NightBEAT, the best outdoor show in DCI that I have attended so far. It was a love fest! I loved the corps, the venue and the people.

How fortunate that I am to have become a member of two awesome drum corps families, the Boston Crusaders and Carolina Crown. The link between the two corps is another family story, the Martins, originally from Rochester, NY. You may have read a previous blog post of mine about them and the story of the rise and fall of the Rochester Phoenix Senior Drum and Bugle Corps from the 1970’s. Martin brothers David, Garry, Tim and Scott all grew up in a drum corps family and have much to be proud of in their past lives and their continued contributions to the drum and bugle corps activity. This past weekend, they all converged on NightBEAT and I was the self-adopted tag-along brother. I met Garry, a board member of the Boston Crusaders, in northeastern Ohio in 2017 when I signed up as a newbie-volunteer for the Boston Crusaders (see I Ran Away with the Drum Corps). He was also running away with the corps through the Midwest. A very meaningful conversation with Garry and his long-time friend Doug at in the park before the first show of the season was instrumental in my deep re-immersion into the activity in 2012. Doug is a founding member of the highly successful NightBEAT and the championship Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps. I learned that Garry’s younger brother Tim having moved to Charlotte, NC several years ago has been a stalwart member of the Carolina Crown board of directors and a consummate supporter of the Corps for decades. I had the pleasure of meeting him and many members of the Crown family last year. Given the scoring and ranking of these two corps being neck and neck this year, these brothers being on respective boards, are getting along amazingly. This is where the love comes in. No matter what corps or score or whatever, NightBEAT with the Martin family and friends is a love fest of entertainment and camaraderie that transcends beyond the competitive rivalry. What a gas hearing all of the stories of the past and relishing in the present art form in the stands with them.

Through Garry I have had the pleasure of getting to know the vast array of people (the BAC family) behind the scenes of the venerable, almost 80-year old organization – the Boston Crusaders. Through Tim, I have met the incredible Carolina Crown family of board members, staff, volunteers, alumni (the Crown family) of the spry young 30-year old corps. The meteoric rise of Crown to championship level, after only three decades, can be attributed to a collaboration of a wide-variety business disciplines by the respective founders. Always having the financial bottom line in mind, they created a great business model for NightBEAT, laying a solid financial foundation for the birth and growth of the corps.

What appeals to me greatly about these fine organizations is that they have the social bottom line in mind as well. Once again, I was privileged to attend the Rhythm and Reading, Samaritan’s Feet event the day before the show at a Baptist church in a Winston-Salem neighborhood. This year I was handing out new pairs of Vic Firth drum sticks to the eager budding percussionists. Carolina Crown continues it’s off the field mission of Live Long Excellence, expanding their reach to the greater community of Winston-Salem participating for the first time at annual community event. While there, I made the acquaintance of Carolyn, representing the Urban League of Winston-Salem. Since I had an extra ticket for NightBEAT the next evening, I invited her to join me. And, guess what? Yay!, she did. What a privilege it was for me to have her as my companion and again I enjoyed the show with a newbie. What an incredible show for someone to see for her first experience with eleven of the top corps performing with late-season precision. She loved it! I am grateful for the time we spent together before and after the show and the insightful conversations we had about unity and purposeful steps that we can all take to get along. Thank you, Carolyn.

Charles (l) and Tim (r) at Rhythm and Reading.

The Crown family members that I have met: past marchers, hall of fame members, board members, volunteers and other supporters, are too numerous to mention here. However, I will mention one – Charles. His leadership is taking the Crown organization to new levels of excellence. I deeply appreciate his welcoming me the past two years into the Crown family. After two days of drum corps merriment together, he looked me in the eyes over breakfast, pointed and said, “You! Yes you. You need to keep writing.” I had been in a funk recently and stopped writing this blog. Thank you, Charles.

There is a lot of love in drum corps, especially among the many family connections that permeate the activity. Brothers, Mike and Rick, former marching members and consummate BAC supports, are another great example. Rick is always on hand with the corps at the housing sites. Mike, a former BAC drum major is Chairman of the Board and a champion fundraiser. Oh how it is good to see them following the corps, always positive and confident, mirroring the corps’ spirit. They are once again on tour bringing much love to their fellow Giants. There must be hundreds of stories of family members marching together, perhaps thousands of members whose parents have volunteered along the way. How lucky I am that my parents raised a trumpet player and a snare drummer. My brother Danny, the trumpeter, being the more talented one travels with me in spirit. Back in the day we went to some awesome shows together in Rochester where I know that I heard the Martins play, though not knowing them then. Since my bothers early passing I have adopted many friends as brothers. Today, I have many skiing and hiking brothers – the Powder Pigs. My humble home along the Mill Brook is the unofficial home of this loose group of skiers (or is that a group of loose skiers) hosting Friday après ski merriment. And, now over the past few years of immersion into this crazy activity of drum corps I have many new summer brothers and sisters, exponentially expanding my adopted family members. Man hugs are common. How lucky am I to have found the indomitable spirit of drum corps that instantly unites and bonds us as a family.

Before the writers funk, I left off this blog with a short post leading up to the premiere event in Detroit. So many things have transpired since then. Ford Field was a fine venue for the premiere, though I much prefer the outdoor venues. My friend Ken (you know the one who saves turtles in his spare time) and his family enjoyed the show, sitting next to me in the prime seats at the 50. It was their first show and they loved it. Nephew Alex, a trombone player, marches with his high school band. Since I flew into DTW from BTV, I spent the week with another friend in the Detroit area, alternating visits between the Detroit Athletic Club and the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, before returning to my preferred bohemian type life style along the Mill Brook. I ran every morning in the comfortable shade on the flat and straight sidewalks of Grosse Pointe. I am finally feeling comfortable with 3 plus miles again after a long hiatus from running.

The early season show in Lawrence, MA was a blast, especially seeing Goliath take the home field to the appreciation of the full house with many Boston Crusaders fans and alumni. Everyone enjoyed the stellar performance of the Beatles tunes by the Bluecoats. Later today, I will be on my way to Lawrence again to begin my auto tour including Allentown, Akron and Indianapolis. Tonight, I will enjoy the company of a friend , Mary from the Boston area. This will be her first show, too. I will post you from the road.

1 Comment

  • Carolyn Higgins says:

    I think you should never starve” your readers again. Endulging in too many word feasts like this blog could prove unhealthy. It was great . . . and super interesting background info!