The memories and new insights from one drum corps alum during his reunion with former members.
In the summer of 2005, I was fortunate enough to be a member of the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps from Denver, Colo. I spent my summer practicing music, perfecting my marching and experiencing one of the greatest summers of my life—all while making friends with some of the most wonderful people in the world.
I still follow the activity as much as I can but am no longer of age to march. I work a 9-to-5 desk job, pay rent and bills, and really haven’t played my horn like I used to in a long time. Now I teach music and marching rather than perform. I feel like an adult, with far more responsibilities than I’d like, and that whole life of traveling the country, performing an 11-minute show, sleeping on gym floors and eating four or five peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day seems like a dream.
At the beginning of this summer, a fellow Blue Knights member called and asked me if I would like to meet him in San Antonio for the Drum Corps International regional competition. After some creative scheduling and a little bit of saving, I made up my mind to fly out there and see the Blue Knights along with a number of other top drum corps.
“Drone” and “Tex”
I was picked up at the airport at midnight by “Drone” and “Tex” (drum corps nicknames last forever) and Drone’s girlfriend. We went to the house for a few hours of sleep before the show. As soon as we settled in, an amazing feeling crept over me. I had not spent time with these two guys, just hanging out and talking, since finals in 2005, but somehow it seemed like that time between had never happened. We spent most of the night talking about memories that were almost two years old but felt like just a few days ago.
We woke up early for some Whataburger (probably my favorite part of Texas) and to go watch the Blue Knights rehearse. It was so odd pulling into the high school where they rehearsed since that was the same high school where I had spent three days practicing two years before. The food truck was in the same spot, the snares were practicing next to the same building, and aside from a little rain, it all looked exactly the same.
Tex and I caught up with the visual staff and the drum majors, one of whom I housed with in 2005. Again, I felt that wonderful feeling that time had not taken place, and these were still people I saw every day.
“I Go On”
Half an hour before the show began, we jumped into Tex’s truck and headed over to the stadium. From the moment we arrived, I knew there was nowhere else in the world that I would feel more comfortable. Hundreds of performers wearing colored uniforms, working together as they banged on drums, threw flags into the sky and blew warm air through their long pieces of brass, along with the familiar smell of gasoline from dozens of semi-trailers and buses—it all flew into me with such wonderful familiarity.
Watching the drum corps shows was fantastic. Tex, Drone and I spent the next few hours screaming for every drum corps that came on, telling each other stupid jokes and regaling in stories we hadn’t told in two years between performances.
And finally the moment that we had been waiting for came … the Blue Knights entered the field. We yelled the name of every person we could think of before they started and, of course, shouted “I Go On” (the motto of the Blue Knights) as loud as possible right at the salute.
I don’t think it’s ever going to feel completely normal to watch the Blue Knights perform rather than performing with them, but whether I was on the field or in the stands, it just felt so wonderful to be experiencing the product of this family I love so much.
After the performance there was a three-hour break, so we went to the buses to see our old friends and congratulate them on a great show. A few of us went for lunch across the street and made it back to the stands in time to watch the finals performances. The Blue Knights went on again. Tex, Drone and I were screaming and cheering and loving every minute of their performance.
With six corps left to perform, a few Blue Knights managed to join us in the stands. We finished the show like so many shows I had seen before, laughing about funny tour jokes and poking fun at corps we so badly wanted to beat that night. The fact that I was a little heavier, a lot less tan and had not performed a single show this summer was completely gone from my mind; we were family again, and it felt incredible.
Back to the Buses
The show ended, and the group from the stands walked the Blue Knights back to their buses. That familiar smell of gasoline, and the sounds of drums and horns were still clinging to the air as it had when we arrived. The convoy was not scheduled to leave for another hour, and that hour was spent enjoying everyone’s company, catching up about life back home and life on the road.
Blue Knights members kept coming up to me to say, “Hi,” and we would exchange in small talk for a few minutes, just before they got on the bus to change or go to sleep. I had not spent time like this in two years with these people, and it felt exactly the same. Whether it was outside of Allentown in 2005 or that night in San Antonio I couldn’t be sure anymore; it all felt like such a wonderful dream that I could not tear myself away from.
Eventually, though, reality set in, and the Blue Knights were ready to take off. So were Tex and Drone. We hugged and said our goodbyes, and it was time to leave. My reunion with the Blue Knights was over for now, and I remembered how I felt when I last left my family in Foxboro 2005.
I have always heard and always known that a drum corps is a family, and not even time can split that apart. Something incredible happens when you spend three months on a bus with people, sweating and working and performing and enjoying every moment together. Nothing can ever break that bond apart; that I knew. But what I learned on this trip was that nothing can stop that bond from living and thriving either.
Being in San Antonio that weekend was a wonderful treat, like going back in time, but more so it was a realization that I don’t have to go back in time because the Blue Knights, like any drum corps, aren’t a one-time thing. The incredible journey that is drum corps is something that lasts with you forever and can never be taken away. Reliving any moment of that is truly the best part of coming home to your drum corps family and was my favorite part of my adventure in San Antonio.
About the Author
Matthew Seltzer marched with the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps in the 2005 season as well as the Pacific Crest Drum & Bugle Corps in 2004. He also marched with UNLV’s Star of Nevada Marching Band. Currently, Matthew serves as the visual caption head for Centennial High School in Las Vegas. He owns Desert Fire Drill Design and writes marching band and winter guard visual programs throughout the Las Vegas area. In addition, he is director for the new Desert Fire Drum & Bugle Corps, which will be holding auditions this coming November with the intention of fielding its very first program during the 2008 DCI Summer Music Games.