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Drum and Bugle Corps Pursue Passion in Searing Heat

Drum and Bugle Corps Pursue Passion in Searing Heat

Drum Corps International students visit Wichita Falls


DCI tubas  

A team of 16 tuba players practice under the direction of tuba teacher Gabriel Gounaris. The location is Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls, Texas; the time is right after lunch at 1:30 p.m.; the temperature is a blistering 101 degrees.




You’re not likely to see a sight like this very often: 140 students perfecting their band performance in the punishing Texas heat.


For three days in July, 140 band students from all over the country perfected their performance skills in Wichita Falls’ 100-degree heat at Memorial Stadium in grueling 10-hour days.




DCI drumline

The drum line goes over and over – and over – a few familiar moves to perfect their 12-minute performance. Students march and drum on the grassy field near McNiel Middle School.




At night, they bunked, not at a fancy hotel, but in the Rider High School gymnasium on cots and air mattresses.







After 10 – 12 hour days spent playing their instruments in the grueling North Texas heat, students return “home” – to a maze of cots and air mattresses covering the Rider High School gym floor.



These 140 students are part of the Drum Corps International – DCI – and pay for the privilege of traveling the country to perform in a drum and bugle corps that is considered marching music’s major league.


The students, ages 16 to 21, came from all over the nation to join up with DCI for a summer experience unlike any other. They auditioned to win a spot in the competitive drum and bugle corps that is based in Oregon.


This group, called The Oregon Crusaders, is one of 23 corps in its division that is traveling, practicing and performing a 12-minute show somewhere in the nation from Memorial Weekend through August 12. They visited Wichita Falls July 18-20, three days when the mercury was soaring into triple digits.


They practiced in small groups – the French horns under the bleachers, the flag team on Joe Golding Field, the drum line on the grassy field between Memorial Stadium and McNiel Middle School – then joined together at night for 6 p.m. all-band practice sessions, which are open to the public.




 French horns

This group of musicians shared a spot underneath the Memorial Stadium bleachers for its practice session with another group at the far end of the stadium. A hot breeze blew through the concrete facility as the students, dressed only in shorts, bandeaus, T-shirts and tennis shoes, practiced.



Part of the Oregon Crusaders is a staff of 25 who are dedicated to keeping the music playing, whatever it takes. Some cook three meals a day for the 140 students; others tend to their medical needs; some are assigned to equipment and set-up. Others are drivers, loaders or floaters – a part of the team to do whatever needs to be done.



DCI shade

The only shade available is shade the students set up themselves. This mini tent shielded the keyboardists during the early afternoon practice in the heat of the day July 18, 2017.



With students carrying 10 to 12-pound instruments for 10 to 12 hours a day, there are plenty of injuries, said Devon Nash, who coordinates the medical staff.


“They march for 10 to 12 hours a day holding 10 to 12-pound instruments…there are going to be some injuries,” she said.


As a group of girls scaled a Memorial Stadium ramp in the mid-afternoon heat with their flags in tow, a visitor remarked on the hard work they were performing in the blistering heat.


Undeterred, the girls – dressed in just shorts and bandeaus -- grinned. “But it’s fun!” they called out.



Visitor: “You’re sure doing a lot of hard work in this heat!” Student: “But it’s fun!”







For more information, see the DCI website at