One of the drum majors from Star of Indiana relives the glory days, back on the podium again at this year’s alumni exhibition.
Photos By Ken Martinson/Marching.com
Being drum major of the Star of Indiana Drum and Bugle Corps goes far beyond a unique experience. There were only six of us in the nine-year history of the corps. The year 2010 marked the 25th anniversary of Star’s humble beginnings, and the opportunity to perform at Drum Corps International semifinals gave us all the chance to relive our “glory days.”
In our youth, we drove to Bloomington, Ind., excited for those last few miles on highway 37 just before we pulled into our summer home, the TLB Corps Hall. Now, we are all middle-aged (and yes, that’s painful to say), we have kids of our own, professions in the “real world,” and goals and dreams beyond those of 20- plus years ago.
When I came to Star, like many rookies, I was fresh out of high school. As the saying goes: I had my diploma in one hand and my car keys in the other, and I headed north.
In 1989, I was the assistant conductor, then marched euphonium in 1990. Ashley Tappan was aging out that year, and I wanted the position of drum major more than anything else I had known in my life. I shadowed her duties (closing up the schools, loading the buses, etc.), and during the last two weeks, Ashley gave those duties to me while working with me to ensure they were done correctly.
During the banquet that fall, executive director Jim Mason surprised everyone, including me, by announcing that I was the new drum major of the Star of Indiana. It was one of the best and most memorable moments of my young life.
In Humble Servitude
The position of drum major differs from organization to organization, but I can tell you in one word what it meant to us at Star: servant. We were and are to this day, faithful stewards and servants of our beloved corps.
Being drum major was more than conducting the ensemble, retreats or “TV time.” For us it was cleaning up the restrooms when you were the only one in the building, not because you had to, but because you wanted to. It was going to bed an hour after the corps and waking up an hour before to make sure the plan for the day was set in motion. It was being a liaison between the membership and the staff and vice versa. It was pushing the corps to its breaking point and then asking for one more run.
It also meant sacrifice. 1991 was one of the hardest summers of my life. The corps was moving the envelope, and the staff wanted more. I became one of the primary fulcrums upon which this was leveraged. I lost nearly every friend I had in the corps that summer. There were many times that I ate, did laundry or even just rested … alone.
Then, that final hot summer night in Dallas, Texas, we had just won the World Championship and returned to the buses. We circled up, and I said a few words to the corps, expressing my thanks, and I remember holding the trophy up above my head, reminding the corps of all the hard work and saying: “No matter what you feel at this moment, I hope one day you’ll look back on our time and find it was worth it.”
As we all began checking in and checking out, I found myself humbled— when every member of the corps, everyone, over the next two hours came and hugged me and said, “Thank you.”
With service to the corps came leadership and responsibility. These might be natural or inherent traits within us, but they must be sharpened and refined. There are mentors from our families, churches, everyday lives, but then there are our teachers. I am the man I am today, due in great part to my experiences and guidance from my mentors in music … from my band director, Terry Williams, to the administration and staff of Star. And now … I am passing those life lessons on to my young sons.
The Star Alumni Corps project began a year and half ago, thanks to some very dedicated people. In August of 2009, I stood before the horn line for the fi rst time in 16 years. “Here we go everyone … Praise Ye.”
The horns came up, and it was like I was 20 years old again. Standing before an ensemble, engulfed by the power of its energy, there is truly no real way to explain it. All I can say is that it is home.
From that moment until we left the field at semis, it was a year of anticipation, fellowship and celebration. From the “drum major” point of view (I was one of three that night), the final week and performances for the DCI Hall of Fame and semifinals audience were experiences of a lifetime. Climbing the podium in Lucas Oil, waving to my wife and son, and hearing Brandt Crocker’s legendary voice once more say the words, “The Star of Indiana,” was a prelude to the surreal moment that we were once again taking the field.
During our final week we were preparing for one of the “last” runs … you know, the “this group will never be together again” run. We pulled the corps in and in that one moment, standing in a public park in Plainfield, Ind., I realized … I was home. Corps Hall wasn’t a building composed of sticks and bricks. To the contrary, I was standing in Corps Hall, among these pillars of people, united by the ties that bind family together.
As I looked into the faces of my Star family, I realized and told them that the years may pass, and yes, we will grow old miles and miles away from each other, but in these moments, these special moments, we can always come home.