I was thinking back to my rookie year on a drum corps staff (2002-2003). I remember my first visual staff meeting and my first camp and nothing in between. First meeting was at a guy’s house in a very rich neighborhood. He and his wife have no children, both are professionals and both obviously like to spend their money. There were 7 or 8 of us on the visual staff to start the season (that would change dramatically in a few months.) The last guy to show up was a tech, but I always considered him the caption-head (until that changed) because he was all business, but a little too much all business. I will get back to what I mean about that later.

So tech/caption-head guy gets there and happy greetings to and from the old staff follow until he sees me. His smile drops and now his expression is a general WTF. As I begin to introduce myself, he cuts me off right away and says to me, NO, you are FNG, f****** new guy. I was like, whatever, I am here, deal with it.

(Not too long ago me and this guy had dinner. We became good friends. I was a part of his wedding a couple of years after this moment) 😀

I don’t remember who was in charge of the percussion before our first camp in January, but he and his staff were fired. The new guy for percussion is currently a major percussion product spokesperson (this company manufactures stuff with his signature on it!) but back then he was just a young buck up and coming in the world. We are about to have our first ensemble rehearsal and he is going to run it. He starts assigning the techs that are there sections to work with. He had apparently been watching me during the visual block in the morning because he says to me, I know you on top of things so I want you with the battery. The visual tech that had worked with the battery before asked what he was supposed to do. Ensemble caption-head guy said, follow that guy (pointing to me.) 😀

I remember now why tech/visual caption-head guy was not at that first ensemble rehearsal. He had been let go earlier in the day for a couple of what I considered relatively trivial transgressions, but the bottom line was his personality did not fit with the new percussion caption-head and that would be a problem down the road. Oh well. More changes were to come.

The guy with the actual title of visual caption-head was called away to do duty for his country so the guy called in to be the new visual caption was one of my old instructors from back in the day when I was a young pup doing drum corps. He was there my rookie year. When I met him again for the first time in 20 years he asks me if I did drum corps. I said yup. He asks which one; I tell him. He asks when; I tell him what years. Then he gets a little crazy and asks why he doesn’t remember me. I told him it was on purpose! I was not flawless, but as a rookie I was usually close to being tick-less. When you are part of a musical-visual ensemble you want to be just that, a part of a whole.

Last thing I wanted as a rookie in that corps was that instructor in my face. Not much had changed. The 6 guys on visual staff couldn’t stand him and quit. Now the visual staff is just me and this guy, but that was okay, because we got stuff done.

It actually turned out great for me and the kids. One rehearsal he was working the horn line over and over a particular drill sequence that was highly exposed and needed cleaning, but the battery was left rotting at that same time. During one of the breaks a couple of battery kids came up to me and said, Ray, do something, we’re dying out there. Rule #1, figure it out. I got paint and for the first time figured out how to paint a field. I told the caption-head, after I was done painting, I was taking the battery and we would work on other stuff while he worked the horns. He was more than happy but more importantly I was able to get some stuff done with the battery instead of them just standing around.

We traveled all the way to Orlando that year. We all had some fun and exciting times on the road. They ended up making finals for the first time in the organization’s history. I would like to think I was a part of why that happened 😀

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