Part 6 — My Kingsmen journey

by Jeff Davis, DCW staff and member of the Anaheim

This article originally appeared in the May 2007 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 36, Number 2).

2007, the year of the Kingsmen. That’s the buzz in Southern California anyway. I start this after our first weeknight rehearsal and what a rehearsal it was! Fifty-five brass in attendance, I believe, is a record for a Tuesday night. We were preparing for our next public performance at the NAMM convention on January 20. That weekend was also our first kamp as we get moving on finishing the visual program.

It’s now January 9 and there were 60
brass, 30 percussion — including 13 snares — at rehearsal. As our instructor said, we’re starting to sound like a “real” drum corps. I wonder what he means? New faces have been showing up which, if they stay, should continue to push our rehearsals to record numbers.

The music is really coming along and playing as an ensemble is paying off. We don’t have many rehearsals left before the NAMM performance and kamp, so the newbies have their work cut out for them. Notice I haven’t told you what we’re playing. Those of you who may have caught our act on YouTube or whatever will be surprised to know, it’s about 70% different from last summer’s performances. I’ll give you the lowdown after kamp.

The final Tuesday rehearsal before NAMM produced record numbers yet again, with 64 brass and 33 percussion. Friday is when people start arriving from out of town and we’ve scheduled a rehearsal to get everyone situated and playing together. More on that later.

The brass line has been working on “centering” exercises. We start on a note, say a G for example, and then we play whatever note we want until the instructor has us resolve into the G again. It’s surprising how much more in tune and louder you are when you are all centered properly. We’ve got people with a wide range of playing skills — recreational to professional — and our ability to sound as “one” when we get all 150 or so together should be ear-shattering. “Hide the women and children, the Kingsmen are coming!”

I think it is important to thank the Kingsmen Alumni Corps supporters for all their assistance. Without them, our little endeavor would have been quite difficult. They include Dynasty Percussion (, Sabian Cymbals (, Pro-Mark drum sticks (, Dinkles Shoes (, California Baptist University ( and Bugles Across America (

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been at this for over a year (my first rehearsal was in November 2005) and now there are less than seven months before “the” event. It really has gone by quickly. I must admit, at my first rehearsal I wasn’t too impressed. There were a whopping 14 horns — not what I would call a promising start, especially considering I sat in traffic for two hours to get there. Almost makes me wonder why I came back. I mean, really, it seemed more like just a few guys getting together than a “rehearsal.”

Eventually, 14 horns became 30, and 30 became 40, until finally at our June kamp, 93. From November 2005 to June 2006, 14 became 93. Would anyone admit to knowing this was going to happen? I tend to doubt it and we aren’t finished yet.

One thing to keep in mind, around 30% of the corps lives outside Southern California.

Love is in the air

It is not unusual for corps members to become romantically involved and perhaps even marry. Heck, I met my first wife in corps. But here in the KAC, we only do things one way, “BIG!” Here’s a little background. The year was 1979, their paths crossed just barely as he, a simple percussionist who, while he had won DCI twice with Santa Clara (73-74) and a few I&Es — was definitely from the other side of the tracks, so to speak, and was considering marching Blue Devils.

While she, to use his words, was “royalty.” She had marched Kingsmen in the glory years, won two DCI titles with the Blue Devils (76-77), was on staff with the Blue Devils and was dating the drum major and future director of the corps. Yet no words were exchanged. Zoom ahead a quarter of a century and yet again theirs was a chance meeting when a last-minute drill change brought them together. It was love at first sight, something that he had always laughed at in the past.

A twist to this relationship is the fact that they live apart, far apart — Colorado and California. They spoke a great deal via IMs, phone, etc., and became the best of friends, then in September 2006, they made that fatal mistake, they went out to dinner. The next morning, they met in the parking lot, she folded into his arms, kissed him on the neck, he asked her, “If you are serious, there is no turning back.” She looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Yes, absolutely serious.” (Are you hearing the music from Love Story yet?)

And such is the story of Vickie Olson and Mike Braga. This relationship will be completed on August 10, 2007, as this is the date they have agreed to become one. Talk about your big weddings. This one will be at the Rose Bowl, with entertainment provided by the Kingsmen Alumni Corps. How can you top that?

Now, back to all things Kingsmen. Friday night broke all weeknight rehearsal numbers with 88 brass, 35 percussion and an undetermined amount of guard members. It was very exciting. We set up in our performance formation and all I can say is, our French, I mean Freedom horns can really wail. I could not even hear myself play. We also renamed the mellophones. They will forthwith be known as Mallenphones, in honor of Ray Mallen, our section cheerleader.

Saturday morning we met up at the Anaheim Convention Center, it was a bit cool, but at least there was no snow. It was a great atmosphere and performance. The people really seemed to be getting into it and our drum major, Gary Kean, said after the performance, it took all he had to stay on the podium during Mambo. Apparently, the power of the performance was making it difficult to keep one’s equilibrium.

To say we “rocked the house” at the NAMM convention would be an understatement. Folk Song Sweet (Suite), George of the Jungle (drum solo), a medley of Exodus, When Johnny Comes Marching Home and March to the Scaffold, In Time (Jethro Tull drum solo) and Mambo. There, now aren’t you sorry you didn’t come to NAMM or kamp?

Speaking of kamp, it was a great success. We got all the OOT’s and new people caught up to the end of the opener and then on Sunday, everyone learned the entire drill for the first drum solo. There were many who wanted to continue learning more drill just because of the excitement of the moment.

February kamp update

Since I haven’t yet submitted this report, I figured I might as well give you the lowdown on our February kamp. Saturday was spent getting any new people and OOT’s caught up drill-wise. Sunday, the whole corps learned the entire drill for the color presentation. At first we thought we’d just learn a few pages, but as it turned out, we’re such fast learners, we got through the whole thing. It was great.

That leaves us with a drum solo and the closer. At this rate, we will have the drum solo done at the March kamp and the closer in April. Then it’s cleaning and tweaking until August. Pasadena isn’t going to know what hit it.

However, the highlight of the entire weekend was Monday. No, not because it was the last day of kamp. This was the opportunity for some to wear the Kingsmen blue again after some 30 or so years and for others, this was a first time event. I have never put on a brand-new uniform before. WOW, They are beautiful.

I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a uniform since the first time I wore the Pittsburgh Rockets uniform in 1973. There were many tears shed (not by me, of course) and a lot of pictures taken — individuals, sections, the whole corps (see the front cover of the April 2007 DCW).

Then our drum major, Gary Kean, asked if we wanted to play the show. DUH! Heck, at that point he could have asked us if we wanted to march through a pile of hot coals and we would have done it. I know there were some thinking, “Hey, why don’t we march the show?” Problem was, it rained quite a bit and the field was not in marching condition.