Drum Corps competition takes over King’s Fork HS

Published 10:10 pm Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuesday night was a homecoming of sorts for Kyle McKenzie, Lance Schade and Alyssa Tyree.

The three Granby High School graduates had been traveling across the country for the past month as part of the Capital Regiment Drum Corps.

Suffolk was the closest to home the three had been since beginning the Drum Corps International travel competition season back in June. Monday night, the three friends were in Pulaski, and by Wednesday night they were in Columbia, S.C.

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And they would not have it any other way.

“It’s exhilarating — you feel like a rock star,” McKenzie said. “You feel your adrenaline.”

On Tuesday, King’s Fork High School served as the host school for the Tidewater Summer Music Games, where six corps took to the school’s stadium to compete in front of more than 1,000 spectators.

From 2002 to 2007, Western Branch High School served as the host school for the event. The Western Branch Band Parents Association began sponsoring the event in 2002 in order to bring a corps competition to the area. However, for the past two years, the school has been under construction and unable to host the event. Last year, Hickory High School took over hosting duties. This year, organizers needed another location.

“We contacted the band director at King’s Fork and basically said, ‘Hey, can we play in your backyard?’” Paul Sumner, event chairman. “They have been great.”

In exchange, the King’s Fork band parents were able to run the concessions stand at the event. The concert began at 7 p.m. By 7:20 p.m., the stand was completely out of food, and parents were scrambling to bring more in.

“That’s a wonderful thing,” Sumner said. “That means more money is going to support the music program here.”

The Tidewater event is just one stop on the DCI touring schedule.

According to the DCI Web site, the annual Drum Corps International Tour comprises more than 100 events throughout North America each year.

Students and aspiring corps members ages 13 to 22 try out at the beginning of summer, and — if they make the cut — the real work begins immediately.

On average, DCI corps members will rehearse about 60 hours for every minute they perform, Sumner said. A typical routine is about 13 minutes long.

Nicknamed “Marching Music’s Major League,” the corps members are thought of more as musical athletes in intense training than band geeks.

Students pay their own way to spend eight weeks on the road. They travel the country in charter buses, stopping at their next competition site, where they sleep on the host school’s gymnasium floor. Their meals for the summer are prepared in the back of trucks, and when not rehearsing, the corps members are responsible for cleaning the host school.

It’s a lot of work in a season that is supposed to be carefree and fun for students, but the performers say it is worth all the work.

“We love performing,” Tyree said. “If you’ve got to get your butt kicked, it’s worth it.”

Sumner added performing in front of massive live audiences is just one way it is “worth it” to corps members.

“These young people will tell you drum corps affects their lives, not just their summer,” Sumner said. “There are life lessons here beyond playing music.”

McKenzie, Schade and Tyree agreed.

“You learn a lot,” Schade said. “It’s hectic. (You have) lots of responsibilities, and you don’t have parents around anymore.”

“They have structured everything for you,” Tyree added.

Currently, Hampton Roads does not have a home corps of its own. The Capital Regiment, for example, is based in Ohio, but Schade and McKenzie said it is just a matter of time before the area can boast its own corps.

“We want to start up our own drum and brass corps right here in Virginia,” McKenzie said. “People better be ready.”

For more information on Drum Corps International, visit www.dci.org.