This is one of those Non-Alaskan posts, but by now you should know that I only do that if I have something to say.
This weekend, I am heading to the Lower 48 for the first time since last November, and it took a really good reason to choose Dubuque, Iowa as a destination. I am attending the Colts Drum Corps 50th Anniversary Alumni Gathering running from Friday night through Sunday. But before I explain what I am doing there, let me completely digress well beyond what is worth your time (i.e. babble on like I usually do).
Let me start by saying I may offend some folk with this post — my views and experiences were different than many of my friends in corps, and at foremost I wanted to be honest here. I am not intending to be hurtful, and would be more than happy to chat about it (preferably over a beer or five … my treat even).
Most of you all know that a key part of any school music program is the marching band, best known for their halftime performances at football games. Many of you know that some program send their marching bands to competitions. The most advanced level of these band competitions is actually not called a “marching band” but a “drum corps” (originally “drum and bugle corp” based on military style instruments that even I played a variation of through the 1990s). If you want more information what the heck I am talking about, let me know and I will shoot you some video links to get a feel for it – if you don’t know what it is, its probably not what you would expect.
When I was in high school, I loved the marching band to the point I wanted to progress to performing in a drum corps. We all did in our high school it seemed. While some through out the big names in drum corp (Blue Devils, Phantom Regiment, Santa Clara Vanguard, Madison Scouts), I kept throwing out one that got me alot of flack … the Dubuque Colts. While the other names were all the Elite groups, the Colts were … well .. not. When asked why would I ever consider marching the Colts, my answer was simply “because I think I can pass the audition.” While I was one of the top people in my band back home, it still was a struggle to make the corps and that first year was quite forgettable; but I did march 3 years with the Colts the summers of 1989 through 1991.
There is an age limit to marching corps (back then, you couldn’t be 22 and march) but I didn’t “age out” with the Colts – I did that with the Cadets of Bergen County 2 years later which was a big name elite corps (there will be a post on that later this year, I guarantee that). While I don’t regret making that move, I didn’t regret a minute with the Colts either. Best way to describe it is a more intense comparison between high school and college. I graduated with some fun people in high school, people I stay in contact with today, but since that isn’t as much about forming your life as it is doing what it takes to move on high school isn’t as much about the place you relive as it is the “place you are from”. College becomes this place where you choose to live and choose to become what you will be formed into. The friends are closer, what you learn is more complicated, and you achieve more as a result. College is more of who you are. The difference is, drum corps did a lot more to make me who I am than school did. I learned more, experienced more, and became more because I did it. But if I was to describe that time in my life I would say, “I am FROM the Colts, but I AM a Cadet.”
Colts are my family, they are my foundation, and I am proud to be an alumni & proud of those kids that still continue to march for the old girl. Colts have survived against the odds when corps twice their size couldn’t over come increasing costs and decreasing membership. While their uniforms have changed, their style has changed, and the people have changed; they are still fundamentally the same group still based in the small river town in Iowa that supported them from the beginning (which the Cadets can’t even brag about). This weekend, 50 years of Colts members come to Dubuque to celebrate a corps that deserves the celebration. I will be seeing friends I haven’t seen since the ’90s and will be talking about the cornfield tours, the bus breakdowns, the field lining parties, the hours & hours of practice, the blood, the sweat, the tears (AND the “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” … great band, I first heard on tour .. and the Colts did a show on them in the late ’90s too .. it was awesome!).
Friday night, we watch “Music on the March” at Dubuque Senior High School (famous for that barbecue that floats down over the stands and hits the performer’s nose just as you hit the big chords). It’s the competition hosted by and staring the 2013 edition of the Colts Drum Corps. Afterwords we wander back to the hotel probably for a few nightcaps. Saturday there is a tour boat going out on the Mississippi River (see also “booze cruise”). Saturday night is an awards banquet and silent auction of old trophies. The banquet includes a cash bar that also happens to be in the same hotel that I am staying in (stop me if you see a trend). There is a picnic on Sunday, but I need to boogie down to the airport to make the long trip back. Rumor is I am up for the “traveled the furthest” prize – though the girl who works in Abu Dahbi may make an appearance.
So that’s my non-Alaskan weekend to come.