You know you were a band geek when…

23 Jun

Okay, I admit it, I was am a band geek. Actual, if I’m being honest, I’m a music geek! Always have been and I always will be, there’s just a way music touches my soul that nothing else can!

MusicFriday afternoon my little sister got home from babysitting and told us there were band member practicing on the football field… actually I think she may have said something more along the lines of “there’s a bunch of shirtless band guys at the high school.” So of course we (my sisters, mom and I) piled into the car to check it out!

When we got to the school… this is what we saw:

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Boston Crusaders practicing

This is only the brass ensemble, the drum corps, pit and the guard were each off practicing somewhere else.

Let me be the first to introduce you to The Boston Crusaders.

They are a junior drum and bugle corps. These musicians are between the ages of 15 and 21. They had to addition to be in this group. We talked to one of the volunteers and she told us that most of the students are from the Orlando, Florida area because once they make the group, the students have to attend a music camp (camps only in select locations) one weekend every month from November – May. At these camps they work on memorizing music and marching technique. Then in May, they all move into dormitories for a few months before taking their show on the road. They travel with 4 or 5 greyhound buses, a mobile kitchen which prepares four meals a day for the 200 members, supply trucks that store the instruments and cots for the corps members (they slept in our high school gym), a merchandise truck and a truck with bunk beds so the kitchen staff can sleep on the road while they travel (they have to be up at 4AM to begin preparing meals). And in case you were wondering, it costs 2 million dollars to move them all down the road each season! They also have a nurse and physical trainer that travel with them.

Which brings us back to why they were at my old stomping grounds…their first show of the season (which started Saturday and runs through the second weekend of August) was at one of the local colleges and my high school was sponsoring them. They got here around 3:00AM Friday morning, and this was their schedule for the day:

Boston Crusaders schedule

When we got to the school it was around 4:00PM, the HOTTEST time of the day, therefore they are all out practicing in swimsuits and everyone is required to wear a hat. They also all have silver instruments and are wearing gloves, to protect the instruments or to keep their hands from burning, i don’t know.  On the sidelines were tons of HUGE water bottles and it appeared that each member was wearing a fanny pack, we guessed they might have salt tablets in them, as well as sunscreen.

Boston Crusaders practicing

The drum corps and pit (percussion instruments that can’t be marched with and remain stationary during a performance, i.e. bells, tympani drums)  were using the practice field behind the school. We watched the different groups practice the same 30 seconds – 1 minute worth of music 5 or 10 times while we were there. The directors were amazing. They could pick out obscure individual notes and rhythms of specific sections and parts. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were able to narrow it down all the way to an individual player.

We decided to go back up later in the evening for the full dress rehearsal and show run-through. It would be the first time the whole ensemble practiced together that day according to the volunteer we talked to (her son was a Boston Crusader in 2006 and ever since she volunteers a couple of weeks a summer to travel with the corps). We went back up to the school around 9:00 PM and the stadium lights were bright and glowing, and to my surprise, there were a lot of people there to watch (small community, word travels fast I guess, and it was FREE to the public!).

It was really cool watching the whole corps practice. Again, they were still spot-checking 30 seconds – 1 minute worth of music and marching drill. There were three directors sitting up in the stands with a PA system picking apart the music and the drill. Then there were 4 or 5 “coaches” out on the field marching along with the corps picking apart posture, marching steps and horn angle (was the musician holding the bell of their instrument high enough…as a trumpet player I can tell you this can tire out your back muscles QUICKLY and these poor kids had been at this all day long in the hot sun). I felt bad for the members of the corps, the directors kept telling them they needed to commit more, focus more. Honestly, I have NEVER seen a group of young musicians MORE focused in my entire life. To me, they looked pretty dang perfect. The music sounded amazing, their marching lines were clean and crisp. They all hit certain marks are the EXACT same time, EVERY time. They didn’t trip. The guard didn’t hit the musicians with the flags, guns or swords they were throwing dangerously high in the sky… and let me just tell you, there wasn’t a lot of room between the guard and the musicians, I would have been scared for my life.

When it was finally time for the full dress rehearsal run-through I was excited! After watching the different parts and pieces I was excited to see it all come together before my eyes. Let’s talk costumes for a moment…for the most part, the drum and bugle corps reminded me of a soldier’s uniform from wars long ago – maroon undershirt, medium gray coat with double-breasted buttons, white plume (feather in the hat) and black suspender pants, shoes and gloves. The guard (made up of males and females) all had different costumes which surprised me and was a bit distracting in my opinion. The various costumes included shorts, pants, dresses, skirts, fitted coats, coats with tails, coats without tails, long coats, short coats, off-the-shoulder shirts, and other combinations.

The show was FANTASTIC. I wish I could show you, but cameras and video recordings were strictly forbidden as no one has seen their show this season yet – yeah for previews! But I CAN give you my review…

The 12 minute show began with one of the guard members standing alone in the center of the football field. As the pit members began to play, the rest of the corps ran onto the field. I had thought someone had tripped, but it turns out they were all suppose to fall! A single member of the brass ensemble took a knee and began to play facing away from the audience — it was a haunting sound. The single guard member dances around the fallen corps. And then, just as gracefully as they had fallen, they stood and began to amaze the audience with their drill. I felt bad for one of the corps members, when he stood up, his plume came out of his hat (I wonder if he noticed?) and was there on the football field, just waiting for someone to trip on! But lo and behold, a member of the guard was paying attention and smoothly scooped it up all while staying in character. She danced around with it in her hands for a moment or two, and then when the opportunity presented itself, she shoved the plume down into the casing around one of the quad drums. GENIUS! The show continued, and it was fun being able to pick out parts of the music I had heard them practicing earlier that day or watching for the crab step the drum corps had perfected. One of my favorite parts happened about halfway through the show, the corps was nearing the end of a song and they all appeared to be about to slam their instruments into the ground when they changed their minds at the last second and paused forming a zig-zag line of brass! The strength and control in that move alone was impressive! This was followed by everyone running and falling to the ground (they spend a good amount of time on the ground, I sure hope they don’t perform anywhere muddy this season!). The guard member that started the show once again took center stage as she walked down a make-shift stairwell created by the other members of the guard out the their guns! She then danced and tumbled through the fallen corps members and when she passed, they stoop up. It was almost as if she were the resurrecting angel or something. The other guard members came running, crawling, falling and stumbling to the front carrying bright orange flags. It was a beautiful thing to see and the whole performance gave me chills.

But at the end, I was left wondering about the story line.  Had I witnessed a war and the aftermath or a zombie apocalypse? I’m not really sure, the way they were moving and the sound of the music really leaves it open to personal interpretation. I hope that when they perform for real they tell the audience the names of the songs, I bet that would give some much-needed clues to help follow the direction and vision of the performance.

I will leave you with this, I would personally love to see them again! If you get the chance to see them perform JUMP ON IT! I can promise you wont be disappointed!  For a complete list of all their events this summer, check out The Boston Crusader’s Summer Tour Calendar!

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One Response to “You know you were a band geek when…”

  1. George Cooper December 17, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    I ‘aged-out’ over 40 years ago from this organization. IT’s always a pleasure to hear someone opinion who sees these members and their work for the first time. As for the show content. The title ‘RISE’ has to do with this organizations history of overcoming adversity. After a fire destroyed the equipment (horns, drums, uniforms ) the then President Kennedy ( a future honorary member of the corps ) arranged for the corps to purchase west point uniforms ( represented by the gray uniforms at the start of the show )
    The transition to the red Uniforms is to make a statement of defiance the ‘corps will never die’ The corps song ‘Giant’ attests to this commitment and dedication. Thanks again
    George Cooper gwcooper@yaho.com check out http://www.bostoncrusaders.org

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