As many of you know in my past life I was part of something called Drum and Bugle corps from the age of eleven until seventeen years old, 1981 through 1987. It is hard to explain to people the intensity, excellence and physicality that is required to be a member of the top corps. Ironically, as I was preparing to write this article I discovered that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has put together a TV show airing October 5th on Fuse channel that will go behind the scenes to show what I was just referring to. Drum corps originally started from a military background (read more ) and because of that there is a very strong loyalty and commitment to the overall team. The demands are very extreme. You practice endlessly together; sweating, hurting, blistering, starving, laughing, yelling, getting screamed at, sleeping, eating from 8:00 am until 11:00 pm everyday and then you wake up and do it again for the entire summer….. you do everything together with your teammates and they become your family.
I was a snare drummer, which of course is the best instrument to play. 😉 see above picture, don’t they just look cool. Ok it might have had something to do with all the pent up anger I had when I was a younger and I could beat on a drum instead of a person. Either way I was drawn to it when one of my friends simply invited me to come out with him and see what it was all about. I had never played an instrument before nor had even tried to play anything. As soon as I picked up the sticks I was hooked. My first year was in a smaller corps called a feeder corps. That means they grow and develop your skills so you can then move up into the big leagues. Very similar to the way baseball develops their young talent. The next year I joined the bigger corps which was called “The Saginaires.”
It’s hard for even me to tell but I believe this is a picture of my first year at age twelve in the big corps. I made the snare line that year because for the entire off season I did nothing but go to school and then come home and practice, and practice, and practice, and practice, and practice, and practice. Ok are you getting my point? Ask my mother how much I practiced and how many pieces of furniture I destroyed by drumming on them. Some would have called it obsessed, but I saw it as a chance to go after something that I liked and if I was going to do it, why not be the best at it. I started to become a really good drummer and a lot of my instructors had high hopes for me. One of my early instructors was critical in building this belief in me. His name is Rich Hogan and he was a master at teaching basics and developing discipline. He would tell me over and over again that I could be one of the best EVER! You have to understand how powerful that was for a young kid who hated life and really had no one telling him he could be great at anything, ( outside of mom and grandma ). He immersed me in the drum corps world and grew my passion.
Years went by and the drum corps changed its name to Northern Aurora but they weren’t making the next jump to the next level. I wanted to play in a top corps and I left Northern Aurora to join the BlueCoats. I didn’t handle this situation correctly at all and I am sure I spoiled relationships, but when you hate the world you don’t think about how others think and feel. If any of them come across this article I hope they accept my apology. The Bluecoats were an up and coming corps and sure enough at the end of the year we finished in the top twenty-five. In the drum corps world that is a major accomplishment. The corps was gaining lots of momentum and attracting the top players from around the Midwest. The next goal was to make it to the top twelve in the world. This would be equal to making the playoffs in the NFL. I talked my friend Cedric and his brother Eric, who I had practiced with for years and become best friends, into coming down to Canton, Michigan and joining the Bluecoats. As the season progressed it became obvious that we were going to make the top twelve and our drum line was doing even better. We were gaining the attention of the top five drum lines and had beaten some of the upper corps drum lines. We had something magical going that year, and I was about to make one of the worst decisions in my life. Half way into the season they would give you a two week break to go home. This next part is to give you insight into my thought process not to make excuses, there is no excuse for what I was about to do. I was completely broke, I mean I had no money at all! I would mooch off of my friend Ced. The center or lead snare drummer and me started to not get along, and I didn’t know how to handle conflict. All I knew was fight or flight. I had a very serious girlfriend at home that I was missing and all of these things combined together got me to the point that I should just stay home and abandon my corps.
AND I DID!
I still to this day can’t believe this happened and I can’t believe that someone didn’t tell me I was being stupid and help me solve these issues. The corps members tried, the director tried, everyone was trying to get a hold of me to talk me off of the ledge but I wouldn’t talk to any of them. Needless to say I destroyed a lot of relationships and hurt my teammates. To that point in my life I had quit everything that I had ever started so it wasn’t that difficult to do, but years later it would become one of the few things that I have ever regretted doing.
Years later I would get involved in Life. I learned how to truly succeed at something, eliminate the layers of garbage in my personality and my view of myself, help others understand these things and truly be blessed with an amazing lifestyle. It also helped me become financially free so I started attending the drum corps finals every year. I had never talked to any of my old teammates but eventually I reconnected with Cedric and Eric. We started going to finals together and we new that one day Bluecoats were going to win Drum Corps International. I was looking forward to that day but also dreading it. I knew when they won I would not be able to enjoy the victory as much as my friends would because of what I had done.
2016 Indianapolis, Indiana. Cedric and Eric and I once again go to watch finals and the Bluecoats won their first championship. It was an amazing show and they deserved it beating out some of the best shows I have ever seen. As they announced the winner Cedric, Eric and another ex-teammate Elliot went crazy. I was going crazy also but the terrible feeling from 34 years ago was still there. I couldn’t even bring myself to go where the alumni were hanging out and celebrate with them.
Lessons learned. Be very careful who you are asking advice from OR, who you aren’t asking for advice from. Success knowledge is all around us we just don’t see it because we are looking through a pair of dirty glasses and can’t see it. Realize that there are people that can give you advice and see things that you cannot see yet. It never ceases to amaze me on how confident humans are in their own ignorance. I was convinced that I was making the right decision that day and I could not have been more wrong. Do not let this happen to you. Humble yourself, look for answers, be hungry. As Einstein said “The significant problems we face in life can’t be solved at the same level of thinking that created them”.
Search and find answers so you can “Live the Life you always wanted” not the life you think you are stuck with.