World class drum corps will march in Manti parade
Clara Hatcher and John Hales
EPHRAIM—Nearly 150 young people between the ages of 14 and 21 marched down Manti’s Main Street on Tuesday as part of the city’s Fourth of July Parade, playing music that, if you heard it, might give you goose bumps.
Spectators probably didn’t think much about it, other than, “Wow! That’s a pretty good marching band.”
But don’t you dare call them a marching band. As any one of them will tell you, they are “drum corps.”
Or, as one of their member once put it, “This is marching band on steroids.”
Specifically, they are the Battalion Drum and Bugle Corps, a competition ensemble that, even though it isn’t professional, is of national stature.
Before Tuesday’s parade and an exhibition at the Manti High School football stadium the prior Saturday, the Corps had spent three weeks at Snow College at what they call their Spring Training Camp, getting ready for a grueling 10-day competition tour.
As a “musical marching unit,” the corps consists of brass, percussion and color guard. The corps leaves woodwinds to the marching bands.
Based in Salt Lake City, the Battalion Drum and Bugle Corps is currently a candidate to compete in the Drum Corps International’s (DCI) Open Class. The DCI is a “non-profit governing body” that gives member corps the chance to perform in front of more than 400,000 spectators across the country and compete against other member corps.
But if they could handle the three weeks at SnowCollege, they’ll certainly be able to handle the rigors of the tour: The tour might be grueling, but the training camp was downright brutal.
For 11 hours a day, six days a week, the players worked on music and choreography, and then tried to put them together precisely, bringing the 142 members of the group into perfect synchronization.
On a typical day, the Corps started rehearsal at 8 a.m. and worked on physical training, stretching and marching technique until lunch. After lunch, the group went into four one-hour blocks of music rehearsal. The group put both movement and music together on a Snow College practice/soccer field for another three hours after dinner.
Oh, and did we mention that each of them was carrying, in the sweltering mid-summer heat, an instrument that could be worth as much as $6,000 and weigh up to 25 pounds?
With water breaks every few minutes and running back to the starting position of segments (called “sets”) that were just a few seconds long, which they practiced over and over again, they worked 11 hours a day to learn as little as one minute of their routine.
“This is extremely physically exhausting because we have to maintain correct technique—core engaged, legs straight, horns up—while thinking about the music we are playing and running between sets,” said Alexander Davis, a baritone player in the corps horn line. “It takes a lot of physical and mental strength.”
Davis is planning to come to Snow College as a freshman next fall. That decision is thanks in part to his experience at two training camps on the Snow campus. The fact Snow is the home for Corps spring training is apropos for a school where the first bachelor degree it ever offered was in commercial music.
Davis said that because of the exhausting intensity, the Drum Corp training camp was not always fun. After the first week and first music block last year, Davis said he wanted to go home. He talked to one of the instructors who told him to wait it out.
“After our first show in Washington State, I was bawling because she was right,” Davis said. “It was so worth it.”
The sentiment is shared by all of its members.
One might think that the musicians would welcome the end of a day of such fatiguing rehearsal. Almost the opposite is true.
At one recent particularly strenuous rehearsal block, the final notes died away at 8:58 p.m., two minutes before the scheduled end of practice.
“Do it again! Do it again!” many Corps members called out.
Even when they did it again, finishing 4 minutes after the scheduled end of rehearsal, “Do it again” still echoed across the playing field.
With more than 100 percussion, keyboard, brass and horn instruments, the group is capable of making an enormous sound, which they and the dozen or so adult directors, choreographers, uniform designers, chaperones and other volunteers look forward to making and hearing.
Ironically, the theme of the Corps performance this year is, “Listening to the silence,” finding music in the sounds all around us when we allow ourselves to be quiet enough to hear them.
“It’s really different in an activity dominated by noise,” Kylie Lincoln, head drum major and head of student leadership, said. “It might make some audiences uncomfortable, but I think it will pay off in a way where they think about their world a little differently and start to listen to the noises around them.”
Because the corps has an age cutoff of 22, this will be Lincoln’s last year with the program.
On Wednesday, the Corps headed out for a 10-day tour through Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho and finally back to Utah.
Lincoln says the group is “like family.”
“There are 143 students, and that’s a lot of people,” she said. “We are all coming from different backgrounds and different places. But, we are all coming here and focused on the same goal: That’s just to reach out to audiences.”