Drum Corps General Life Stuff

Portsmouth High School Band of Tomorrow

PHS Band of Tomorrow
PHS Band of Tomorrow

The Portsmouth High School Band of Tomorrow

High School Band Competition season kickoffs today for the Portsmouth Sound. I’m proud to say my daughter has carried on our family’s band tradition, down to playing Trombone, which I played in High School. As such, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about our good old days in band.

Our Band Director, Billy Watson, touched more lives than he could possibly imagine during his time teaching at Portsmouth High School. His legacy, and that of the High School Band he forged back in the 1970s and 1980s lives on to this day. People still remember the powerhouse that was The Band of Tomorrow. I’m proud to have been a part of the Band of Tomorrow from 1984-1988, and Mr. Watson was one of those teachers that changed my life.

During my marching career, the Fall of 1985 was the pinnacle of PHS Band’s excellence. I only wish my memory and scrapbook were better. I know we won several Grand Championships that year and to this day our 1985 show is the yardstick I use to measure High School Bands. It’s not a matter of vanity to say we were amazing that year. Our performance in Ohio Stadium in 1985 at the Buckeye Invitational was the highlight of band during my time in high school.Buckeye Invitational Logo

In order to overcome the nostalgia plaguing me today I’d like to share the PHS Band of Tomorrow’s performance at the Buckeye Invitational in Ohio Stadium. Set the wayback machine to October 26, 1985 and enjoy a blast from 30 years in the past:

Today, the Portsmouth Sound takes the field to start their competition season. I’m excited to watch them, and jealous in a way. While I would never want to return to high school, the rush of stepping off on that field, and the elation of performing and feeling the musical synergy that can only be produced by marching band and drum corps is an experience that can’t be matched.

In a time when school music programs are pushed aside and continue to falter, I’m glad The Portsmouth Sound carries on our traditions of marching band at Portsmouth High School. I know current band director Matt Swintek instills a fierce loyalty in his students. I can only hope my daughter and the rest of this incarnation of the Portsmouth High School Band value their precious time in band, listen and absorb the positive lessons Mr. Swintek tries to teach them, and most importantly, that they take away the life lessons and work ethic I learned during my time in band.

Times have changed. Marching band has changed, but the ideals remain the same. Mr. Watson always told us “it’s better to shoot for the moon and miss, than to aim for the top of the house and make it.” Still words to live by.

Drum Corps Life Stuff Theatre

Drum Corps Finals Week

Canton Bluecoats-Kinetic NoiseCanton Bluecoats-Kinetic Noise




I recently had the stunning realization that I’ve been following DCI (Drum Corps International) for 30 years. Felt really old when I made that connection last week when I attended the Emerald City Music Games competition in Dublin, Ohio.


What is DCI?

My obsession with Drum Corps began while in High School Marching Band. For the uninitiated, Drum Corps is the equivalent of professional marching band. It’s not your typical half-time marching band show and the competitors aren’t high schools. Corps hail from the east coast to the west coast and everywhere in the middle. Every year, dedicated kids age 13-21 spend an entire summer on charter buses, sleeping on gym floors, practicing on a football field day in day out in the boiling sun in order to perfect a show they perform night after night in stadiums across the US. The ultimate goal is to be as perfect as possible by DCI Finals the second week of August, which ends the season.

Here’s a sample from the 2014 Season:

I first saw DCI Finals broadcast on PBS, ah the good old pre-internet days. The first live show I saw was in Huntington, WV at Drums Across the Tri-State in 1986. Since that time, I’ve lost count how many shows I’ve seen live. I first watched DCI Finals live in 1990. I trekked with a group of college friends to Buffalo, NY and back to Columbus, Ohio in a crazy 24 hour round trip by car to watch The Cadets win. I managed to see DCI Finals in Madison, WI in 1992 and in Orlando, FL in 1996. The experience of watching 12 drum corps at the peak of their game compete at Finals is unprecedented. Watching in a cinema, or streaming at home is good, but nothing beats the energy of Finals Live.

Why Drum Corps? My fascination and admiration for the artistry and competitive spirit comes from the philosophy of many corps-competing against themselves night after night to perfect their shows. Having the highest score at a competition, even Finals is great, but the true spirit in Corps that I admire is watching these kids strive to outdo themselves night after night.

The feats achieved by the likes of The Cadets, The Canton Bluecoats, The Phantom Regiment, and The Madison Scouts year after year never cease to amaze. Music, motion, and theatricality on a football field. Nothing like it.

This week marks DCI Finals week and the competition at the top of the pack looks to be fierce. I so wish I could see it live. Regardless, every member of every drum corps is at the top of their game and should be proud of their accomplishments. These young men and women have learned invaluable lessons they’ll rely upon their entire lives. Good luck to all those competing in Indianapolis this week, and thanks for another summer of high quality entertainment.

I highly recommend looking up Drum Corps on YouTube sometime. It’ll be well worth your time. You won’t regret it.