Member’s Journal – January Audition Camp

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Another weekend; another audition. I had no access to a mellophone over the holidays, so I had no idea what to expect. I brought my French horn for a second time. I carpooled with the same people as last camp, minus one who is probably not marching this summer. We actually left earlier and stayed in Atlanta for awhile before heading over to Jacksonville. It gave us time to rest, and the drive was a little under two hours from Atlanta.

We arrived at camp about a half hour after the check in process began. It seemed no one was there that early. After I turned in the proper things, I stood around and talked to people for over two hours before things got under way. There were a few surprises to be had. The first one was seeing the drill to the intro posted on the wall of Leone Cole Auditorium. I have no idea how quickly the drill was written last year, but we didn’t have an intro segment ready to go until March. With that said, we were told we may be starting drill next camp with the set hornline and drumline. Thank goodness for southern weather during the winter. I was happy to see another girl I go to school with there to audition on mellophone because I knew she’d be a good candidate for the line.

For the rest of Friday night, we worked on basics and warmed up. I didn’t come into this camp feeling that great. My wisdom teeth had been coming in the past week, and I was clinging onto doses of Advil and Aleve. It felt weird when I was buzzing on the mouthpiece. I was fairly tired that night and fell asleep quickly.

On Saturday morning I dreaded waking up for conditioning. I have not been keeping up a workout routine like a I should. I think it’s a bad habit I’ve developed since I started marching because I’ve never been totally out of shape. At the same time, I know I can be much more athletic. We only stretched for a few minutes before going out into the cold to run. I felt guilty and moved to the front of the running block. I kept up my position, but at the end of the run I could not breathe freely. The cold seeped into my lungs with some kind of build up. Yes, I did use my inhaler before running. None the less, I didn’t feel well when we continued stretching. The rest of the weekend I felt like someone put a frog in my throat with a hollow cough.

After breakfast the hornline split into low brass and high brass. Low brass went to visual while high brass went to horn arc. During horn arc, people were called out for their final individual playing auditions. I came prepared with my solo I played my senior year of high school at district and state solo and ensemble. It was Strauss Horn Concerto No. 1, Mvt. 1. I had been hitting the high B flats on Friday night when I ran through it a final time. Unfortunately, that did not hold true in my audition. I think it was because I was playing mellophone before my horn with a different embouchure. Also, when I went to play a chromatic scale on the mellophone, my range died after the B natural above the staff. It wasn’t a bad audition, but those are two notes I know I can hit. I don’t think I was thinking about them enough before playing them, thus fracked them…

During the rest of the horn arc, I was taken aback when my name was called to play through an exercise for a reference pitch. I’ve never thought as myself as the type of person that is one of the better players in the section; as in, "this is who you should listen to." I still don’t think I am, but this weekend I started to discover that I’ve been improving more than I thought during the off season.

When the high brass moved to visual, we worked on slides as well as the previously-learned forwards and backwards techniques. The entire hornline was in visual after lunch. We did something callled "brain basics" where we’d use an 8 to 5 going backwards and forwards for different counts. We dived a little into marching 6 to 5, but we did not work on it going backwards.

After the full visual block, the hornline went to another brass arc. I was excited thinking that since we had the drill for the intro, maybe they’d had out some show music. It turned out we were going to be working on Salvation in sub-sectionals. Sub-sectionals are one of my favorite thing in drum corps. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere than brass arc, and who doesn’t love putting their horn down more often? I say that fending off angry baritone and euphonium players… About 45 minutes later, the hornline came back together and we played through Salvation. I’m excited to play it as a backfield warm up this season.

For the rest of the evening, we had music sectionals. We had longer sub-sectionals to work on "Let It Be Me." It’s returning as an encore tune this year. I was complimented on having a good tone. When we came back as a full hornline, we chunked through all the segments. We didn’t get to do a full run, but we did work on Let It Be Me until the end. I thought it sounded pretty good. I love the contrabass lines after the introduction of the main theme. I’m a fan of the 1980 recording. To me, the piece embodies what emotion must have been felt that night in August. I get goosebumps in the last chord progressions. Spirit’s 1980 hornline is wailing away for a someone whom the high brass trophy is now named after. I don’t think that moment can ever be recreated, but I’d love to get darn close!

On Sunday morning I woke up with the typical pain. It was raining outside, so we did not go running. We spent the whole conditioning time stretching. After a long breakfast, the hornline warmed up with long tones and articulation exercises. We were going to play them on the move in a final visual "audition." The high brass went first. During this, people were being called out to go see the brass caption head to discuss our position in the corps. When my name was called, I walked into a small chapel on the side of Leone Cole. I walked away with my contract; I’m still playing lead mello.

I went back to do the across-the-floors. I didn’t know the mellophones had to play a split in the Remington exercise. One of the brass staff walked by me, and I thought, "Oh no… I must have a lot of feet in my sound." Looking back at it, I think it was because I was the only mello not playing the split. We did these variations on slide exercises. I messed up a few times in those because of brain farts. When the high brass was done, we split into our individual sections for small visual sectionals. We reviewed the very basics and discussed how things are going. At the end, the entire hornline did a final basics block until lunch.

Just like last camp, the people I carpooled with and I had to leave early to make it back at a reasonable hour for the person traveling to Tampa. I don’t think we’ll be staying for the afternoon segments as long as they keep coming to camps. Oh well, that’s not any different from last year when I always had to leave early for my plane flight. Someday, somehow I will stay for show and tell.

I have to find a mellophone to practice over the next month. It’d be exciting if we actually do start drill next camp. We’re supposed to receive some of the show music via email soon. I’m glad to officially be apart of the 2007 Spirit hornline. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I like it.

Publisher’s Note: Michelle is a member of DCI Division I corps Spirit of JSU, a music education major at Florida State University, and a member of the DCP Forum Support Team. Member’s Journal has been a regular feature column of this summer – following the journey of a drum corps member thru rehearsals and the competition season … providing our readers with a sense of the committment, challenges, and rewards associated with membership in a corps. Our thanks to her and the Spirit of JSU staff for helping make this column possible – and all the members of Spirit of JSU for a great season.

Posted by on Sunday, January 14th, 2007. Filed under Member's Journal.