I was 19 years old and in the middle of my first summer of drum and bugle corps. We’d just placed third in the Drum Corps Midwest Division III Finals, and were enjoying the DCM Picnic before taking some time off for Home Days between first and second tour. (You can’t really see me in this photo, but I’m second from the end on our tug-o-war team — almost the anchor spot.)
We were a very young corps that year, in terms of average age and of corps experience — I forget the exact numbers, but the majority of the corps was rookies, and the average age was around 17, I think. So, I’m not sure if it was a reflection of the small size of the corps, or the youth, or the old-school local nature of the corps, but we had several stretches of “Home Days” during the season, where members could ostensibly go home and spend some time with family before going back on the road. Since the corps’ home base was four hours from home for me, and I didn’t have a ride, I always spent Home Days with a local member who was willing to host me. Had I not gotten to see other people going home and seeing their family, it wouldn’t have been a big deal; as it was, I got a major bout of homesickness.
In retrospect, I wonder if eliminating Home Days would have been beneficial to the corps’ performance or burned us out early. When I moved up to a bigger corps a couple years later, there was no concept of First Tour, Second Tour, or Home Days. In fact, there was no concept of regular free time at all, outside of scheduled Free Days, as any stretch of non-scheduled time was to be spent practicing.
Looking back on the years I marched corps, sometimes it amazes me that the positives outweighed the negatives, and that I continued to march until I aged out, and even went back years later to march senior corps for a couple of years. The high of practicing and performing with a group outweighed the loneliness, the separation from family and friends, the lack of spending money, the fact that I was a mediocre woodwind-turned-brass-player, all of that.
At the time, though, despite all the downsides, drum corps was the most important thing.