Drum Corps Diary 2010: There’s A Storm Brewin’

In this fifth installment of our 2010 drum corps diary series, Robert Gagnon from Pacific Crest Drum and Bugle Corps confronts insects, swamps and a downpour–just another day in drum corps.

Today we are in Bellville, Texas. In retrospect the weather here was not that bad, just a little humid for my taste, but I couldn’t really complain although I still did and my section can vouch for that. The morning started off pretty much the same way it always does: Our drum major Mark Kveton tells us the time and where the food truck is and what time we need to be on the rehearsal field. This is pretty much expected every morning, and it will be weird at the end of the season when I have to start waking up to an alarm instead.

A “Hot Pink” Day

When we first got to Bellville, it was early in the morning, and I was so tired and ready to get off the bus and into the gym I didn’t have time to notice anything other than which direction I had to walk to get to my sleeping area. Once we got up for breakfast, Mark gave us the warning that it was hot and was he right. I opened the door to get out of the gym, and I took about two steps before I was drenched in sweat, not a very pleasant welcome to Texas if you ask me. I got through the food line pretty quickly because all I had was a small bowl of cereal, then I had to get ready for practice.

The first thing that I did was put on my section shorts, which are definitely great for this type of weather. The tuba section actually has three different section shorts: one pair is black, another pair is red, and the last pair is hot pink. The hot pink shorts were my idea because I thought that the other two pairs were too heavy and way too long for drum corps. Also, I told the baritone section leader Ryan Milligan that we would be able to stand out more than his section; their shorts are purple and somewhat short compared to what I had in mind for us. So the section made a trip to Walmart, and the shorts we found were in the women’s sportswear section, and everyone approved, so that’s what we got. Needless to say those are the shorts we wore today, and I would like to think that we beat them, but that’s just my opinion. After that it was off to the truck, which was kind of far from the gym and the complete opposite direction from the rehearsal field.

Dealing with Bugs and Swamps

The rehearsal field was terrible! There were red ant hills, gigantic crickets and huge spiders all over the place. Not to mention that there were swampy areas in random spots throughout the front half of the field. Despite this we had a typical morning rehearsal, and it started off with our stretch block followed by the running block. When we started running, no one was really aware of the swamp areas that were on the field with possibly the exception of the mellophone section who paints the fields. I was running in the line next to the line that was most affected by these swamp-like areas. On lap one they all ran through it, and I laughed really hard because most of them were angry when they realized what they had just ran through. After the run we set up our basics block, and we pretty much just work on the technique the whole time. After basics we began cleaning drill.

The weather in Texas is very strange; it’s hot and humid but stormy at the same time. While we were cleaning drill, our drill writer Steven Estudillo pointed out a building and said if the weather gets bad, that’s where we were to go. We finished the block without any weather delays, and they even gave us eight minutes to run and fill up our water jugs before we went into horn arch. We went through our daily warm-up routine and then straight into working parts of the show. This block was broken up, first half before lunch and the second half of the block was after.

After lunch I generally feel very lethargic, but for some reason today I didn’t which is a good thing for me. We did a quick re-warm and stretch and then straight back on the field. The horn line was working out some tuning and balance things at the end of our show, and we “repetted” the ending of our show for 45 minutes.

It was difficult but fun, the horn line likes to hype about weird things, but it really helps push through rehearsal. After that it was time for ensemble, and we got to move to the field the guard was rehearsing on which was just across a tiny swamp from our rehearsal field. The field we were going to use for ensemble was like astroturf compared to what we had been working with. We began working on chunks of the show, and we all knew that this would not be a long ensemble block because behind the trees in the back field, there were dark storm clouds traveling fast toward us.

I was extremely happy that we wouldn’t be outside too long because with the mixture of my sweat and the humidity, my clothes were drenched and my gloves were so wet it was difficult to get a good grip on my horn.

The Downpour

After we ran a larger part of the opener, the brass caption head Brad Davis said grab your stuff, help the pit and move quickly to the predetermined area, which was not close to the field by any standards. At this point it was raining lightly, so I walked to the sideline and my friend Alexander Moore and I grabbed a bass drum and we headed off to the auditorium. As we were walking, it started to rain more and just as we got into the door of the auditorium, there was a huge downpour. It was pretty ridiculous how good of a call Brad made when he said go inside. The funny part of it was that half the corps didn’t move as fast as everyone else and got soaked.

Once we got into the auditorium, it took us too long to set up the horn arc; it was very chaotic, and to top it off, the place was freezing. The air conditioning must have been on full blast, and my clothes may have not been wet from the rain, but I did sweat through them. The whole time I was worried that I was going to get a rash, and that would have made the next few days of rehearsal very unpleasant. The drum line and the pit were set up, and we were still scrambling to find space for us to go. Once we finally set up the arch, rehearsal went very well. A music ensemble rehearsal inside was not ideal, but we made the best of the situation. We actually made a lot of progress and finished our almost two-hour rehearsal with a full musical run of the show. I was surprised at the end of it when I was sweating again after playing through the show because we hadn’t even moved, but I guess the amount of energy stays the same.

Before going to bed, I looked at the forecast for tomorrow–mostly cloudy with a 40% chance for rain–which meant a great day of rehearsal before heading to Houston for the show. Tonight was the first time we have stayed at a housing site for more than one day, so we got eight hours of floor time. That is a lot of time in drum corps to get to sleep, and we were of course going to take full advantage of it. It’s almost time for lights out!

About author

Robert Gagnon

Robert D. Gagnon is a student at Santiago Canyon College in Orange, Calif., working toward a bachelor’s degree in music education. He was the editor-in-chief of “The Legacy” yearbook at Orange (Calif.) High School. Robert has performed on a multitude of instruments including trumpet, clarinet and timpani with organizations such as the Pacific Crest Drum and Bugle Corps and the Riverside Community College.

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