by Mitch Miller
This article originally appeared in the January 2008 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 36, Number 16).
You can see your breath in the brisk night air. You shiver, though if from the cold or simply from anxiety and excitement, you can’t tell. No one speaks as the silent procession makes its way to the beckoning lights ahead.
You look up to the sky in time to see the gray clouds roll away, revealing the full moon which casts its pale glow down to reflect off the uniforms around you.
Now you are at the edge of the field. Any whispers that might have arisen during the walk are suddenly stifled as each face turns to gaze at the plain before them. You are dimly aware of the roar of hundreds of people, but you pay it no mind. Your thoughts are bent on the task before you. You go over each detail, each move. Every breath you will take in the next 10 minutes is rehearsed, planned and exact.
An order is shouted — it seems a whisper in contrast to the sounds within you and without –and you move forward onto the field. Your heart races and sweat begins to bead on your forehead. The metal in your hands is icy cold, you flex your fingers to warm them. You raise your eyes and peer past the low brim of your shako and gaze at the hundreds of people assembled around you.
The adrenaline starts to flow. Slowly you raise the instrument to your lips . . . then, in a flash, you and more than a hundred others transform . . . you explode into a single entity of sights and sounds . . . a magnificent wave of musical energy.
The music flows through you, around you, binding you, in that instant within the hearts and souls of your colleagues, your friends. The exhilaration of the crowd serves only to intensify your performance. Each step rolls into another, each note blends with the next.
One form slowly unfolds as another takes shape, then . . . it is over . . . those were the fastest 10 minutes of your life. Sweat drips into your eyes, your knees are weak and your feet burn. Your breath comes in gasps, chills run down your spine as the crowd roars its approval.
You look over at the faces of your friends. All of them are sweaty, red-faced and gasping for air. But all of them are smiling as you march off the field. You are exhausted, both mentally and physically, but you’d all do it again if asked.
Despite mistakes and lost shoes, one can’t help but feel pride. This feeling is greater than any high you can achieve from a drug. This is a feeling that you can only get in those 10 minutes.
Whether you win or lose is of no consequence now because in those 10 minutes you became immortal and in those 10 minutes you were the best you could be. You were alive!
This is drum and bugle corps. Welcome and prepare to live your life.