After experiencing amazing acts of kindness from strangers, a drum corps drum major realizes the activity’s biggest benefits.
As a music education major at the University of North Texas in Denton, I sought a variety of experiences to become a better teacher. Whether teaching free private lessons or “tech”-ing for marching bands at local high schools, I was determined to learn as much as possible.
I had always dreamed of marching drum corps, but as a flute player, I never imagined getting the opportunity. During my freshman year at UNT, I discovered that Crossmen Drum and Bugle Corps, based in San Antonio, allowed open tryouts. I auditioned for drum major and saw the experience as an ideal opportunity to learn more about brass pedagogy, rehearsal etiquette, and visual fundamentals at an accelerated pace and quality level.
When I received the contract to be drum major for Crossmen, I didn’t stop smiling for a week. My dream had arrived, and I was prepared for all of the challenges it held. Or so I thought.
One part of my rookie summer that was complicated was the fact that I was a leader, but I was still figuring out the mundane basics of drum corps life, like how to pack a suitcase or how to avoid the shower and food lines. I juggled my responsibilities awkwardly.
The week before Drum Corps International (DCI) finals in 2013, I became ill with a relentless cough and nausea. Because rehearsal time was precious, and we were so close to reaping the results of all our efforts, I was determined to push through regardless.
I was physically and emotionally drained by the end of my first summer. I needed a hot shower, my bed, my dogs, and I even missed my younger brother.
Boarding the plane for home, I was still coughing. I walked toward the front of the plane to ask the flight attendant for some water. When she brought me a cup, I learned we wouldn’t be leaving for another hour! This news meant I would miss my connecting flight home! I nearly choked.
A passenger in a nearby seat who had overheard my despair offered assistance. She was a mother of a drum corps member and had noticed my Crossmen jacket when I had walked by. She was going to take me to the customer service desk and help me navigate the complicated process of doing whatever it took to get me home. We bolted off the plane and were first at the desk, but our super speed made no difference because customer service said there was no way I was going to make it home that night.
But then, a drum corps fan overheard us and, noticing my Crossmen jacket, simply handed over her ticket to me! I argued with her kindness, but I wish I hadn’t. The flight was leaving. I had to run as fast as I could to the gate, but when I arrived, the screen read, “FINISHED BOARDING,” and all I could do was lean forward and pant and wheeze, hoping to catch air.
Then I heard, “Are you Ms. Hall?”
Peering at me was another customer service lady looking like she wasn’t sure if she should call me an ambulance or give me a message. I nodded, and she grabbed my hand, placed a plane ticket in it, and pointed in the opposite direction.
She said, “If you run fast enough, you just might make it.”
I slept in my own bed that night. Are you wondering how I made it home?
The mother of that drum corps member found out that boarding had completed before I got to the gate, so she purchased another plane ticket home for me and had the agent deliver it to me.
Like a Beacon
I initially joined drum corps because of all of the educational opportunities it offered, but I quickly learned it offered much more. I gained a second family, and I’m not saying that as a cliché. This family includes everyone who has been with the Crossmen along with alumni and current members of other drum corps. Yet, I didn’t know this fact until I left the field and stepped into the world where my Crossmen jacket seemed to act as some kind of beacon on my behalf!
No one besides other DCI people and possibly other high school and college marchers recognize these logos or names. However, maybe this situation isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe the small group involved in this activity makes those of us who do recognize them all feel safe and familiar with one another.
Why would a complete stranger offer me her ticket? Why would another buy me a ticket? These two amazing ladies did what they did based upon what I can only guess would be a common bond and a sense of caring for those in that group. They sacrificed their own needs to meet mine. Wow. Their acts of kindness impacted me powerfully by shaping my vision for how I wanted my role as a drum major at Crossmen to play out over the next three years.
After my rookie year, I did my best to promote the family atmosphere. I made online flashcards as tools to learn everyone’s names, we played bonding games during spring training to help break the ice and get to know each other, and I challenged the leadership team to sit with someone different at each meal. Crossmen focused on growing as a family unit rather than working for ourselves individually. Because we were all working toward a common goal together, the vibrational experience of the entire drum corps was magnified, and we were able to lift the group to new heights!
Every time I put on my Crossmen jacket, I wonder if it might call out to someone again, and I might be able to meet someone new in my extended family. I would gladly give my plane ticket to a complete stranger wearing a different corps jacket because I will forever view those in the marching arts as people with whom I share a bond.
About the Author
Caitlin Hall is currently a band director at Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas. In high school she performed at Cedar Park (Texas) High School before going to Vandegrift High School in Austin, Texas, as its first drum major. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas, where she served as drum major for the Green Brigade. The past four summers she was drum major with Crossmen Drum and Bugle Corps.