Indiana Wants Me for DCI

June 28, 2024 – 9:00 am – Steuben County, Indiana

I am at the Welcome Center on I69 in Northeaster, Indiana, where there is power, bathroom, water, and WIFI. It’s time to update you on my travels and sleeping accommodations last night. I set my phone to play one of my shorter recorded sessions on my Steinway. When the music stopped, I was fully in REM. Waking only twice to head the call, I had one of the soundest sleeps in a long time. My new 40-degree sleeping bag purchased yesterday afternoon was warm and comfy. The netting kept all-size critters out, and the hammock rocked me gently to sleep. Upon awaking at well past dawn, I quickly decamped, leaving no trace of my presence. Now, I am en route with a large coffee and a clear head to Muncie, where I will catch up again at Ball State University. First, a swing through Tipton, IN, to check out the Blue Stars in rehearsal.

12:30 pm

After a couple of hours on the Eisenhower Route and innumerable right- and left-hand turns in a zig-zag pattern on secondary roads, I am sitting at the 50-yard line in Tipton High School Stadium, Tipton, Indiana. This is the home of the Tipton Blue Devils. My high school team’s name is the Red Devils. I am more blue now.

The roads here are straight, and the ground is flat, allowing a pleasing cruise across the landscape, albeit at breakneck speed. These are the roads where James Dean learned to drive fast, born in nearby Marion. Windmills tower above the silos and fields of soybeans and corn, the dou-crops that dominate this flat land. Churches occupy the corners at various intersections. It’s funny how I can be in one state and then the next in a snap. Visible signs of red and blue political persuasions are evident. Fireworks retail outlets and cannabis dispensaries are prevalent in the border towns. In one state, you can blow your mind; in the next, you can blow your fingers off. America.

Speaking of blowing my face off, the Blue Stars are encamped here at the school in preparation for tonight’s show in Muncie. At this point of the rehearsal, they are air-only, on the move, and working on the drill. According to Travis, the brass caption head, the corps will rehearse in ensemble between 1:00 and 2:00 pm before preparing for the show.

Well now! They just went full-on sound at a climactic part. This is why I love rehearsals: to understand the methods and processes for achieving such a high level of sound and performance quality. To most, this may seem tedious as they break down the program piece by piece, over and over again. Perfection in unity is the goal. It is partly cloudy with a breeze; it is not a bad day to rehearse. The mood is calm and confident. Today, I can see the props up close. Universal, the creative 2024 program employs three-dimensional props representing planets and eight large telescopes on wheels. I recall that the planets remained stationary during the show in Rockford on Wednesday. I now observe two circular tarps at the field center representing Earth and one at the front left. The director said, “There is no full run-through today; you will bring that on the field tonight.” They are now in the full ensemble at the start of the program. It’s time for listening and watching.

The opener is a recorded narration with the pit fully engaged as the marching members, and Colorguard go through a series of drills within and around the props arrayed across the field. After what seems like two minutes, the brass comes forward in a full frontal position between the twenties, where the horns snap up and assault us with the opening blast, stating that this show is serious!

I stayed at the Blue Stars rehearsal until just after the fourth part, the ballad. My father was in a B-29 bomber named Stardust over Korea in 1951. So, I purchased the Willy Nelson album of that name and became a fan of that piece. The Blue Stars take it to an entirely different level with the unique and dynamic arrangement for trombone and 79 other horns.

4:00 pm Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana

Yay! I made it to Ball State University for the show tonight. I was active with my devices, reserving a hotel room and a sub sandwich Mike’s way. I also purchased a ticket in the cheap seats on the left side but up high. I know I will be sitting with many school kids as there are several school buses in the parking lot already, with a flash mob of students just outside the stadium. I was certain one of the corps was doing a camp. Perhaps Carolina Crown, who is in residence at the stadium rehearsing now. I will peek in the stadium to see if I can catch a little before my campus walk in search of the necessary items such as a bathroom and WIFI, and maybe a session on a nice piano in the student center.

5:00 pm

Alas, the piano at Ball State’s student center is the same one I discovered last year: out of tune and out of regulation, though the natural woodgrain goes well with the wooden bookshelves that line the large study. Still, there is air conditioning, which is a blessing now that it is almost 90 degrees outside. WIFI and power enable me to keep you up to speed in this comfy chair.

Earlier, I looked and listened in the stadium because there was a Carolina Crown truck in front of the stadium. Much to my surprise, when I rounded the corner and entered the lower left tier, there were over 300 kids on the field, rehearsing a few bars of Carolina Crowns’ closing movement, on the move to a drill, en mass. From Jerri, the nurse, I quickly learned about the Music for All Summer Symposium camp that brought these Crown auxiliary kids to the field. It will be a great show, and this entire ensemble will perform an interesting encore. Tonight is the same lineup as the World Class Corps at Rockford on Wednesday, plus Carolina Crown. It should be an interesting match-up with BAC. Hold onto your hat; I will leave it here and catch up with you later.

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