Company Front – Issue 1
My name is Gregory M. Kuzma (GM for short) author of the book, On the field from Denver, Colorado -The Blue Knights! One member’s experience of the 1994 summer national tour and I’d like to welcome you to Company Front.
The intent of this column is to be a forum where you can inquire about any topic related to drum and bugle corps or marching band. One thing that makes this column unique is that I will share it with three other marching arts book authors; Colt Foutz, author of Building the Green Machine, Jeremy ‘Spike’ Van Wert, author of Not for the Faint of Heart, and Courtney Brandt, author of The Line. The four of us will provide a different perspective on the marching arts activity and will take turns providing our thoughts, passions, and inspirations. We will also answer any questions readers may have as well as do our best to cover suggested topics.
My contribution will primarily be from an administrator’s perspective on the marching arts activity as a former corps director for Revolution and tour manager for the Blue Knights. I will also interview other drum corps leaders for their opinions and insight on where the marching arts activity has been, where it is, and where it is headed.
I’ll be answering questions from readers in future issues of my contribution of Company Front. Feel free to send any questions or topics you would like me to discuss to GMKuzma [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com?subject=Question%20from%20DCP%20Company%20Front.
Now, for this month’s topic from me: How I became involved in the drum corps activity and what I learned from that experience.
My experience as a marching member in drum corps made quite an impact on my life. I imagined I would return to the activity in some capacity as an instructor or a volunteer, but I never thought I would have the opportunity to be the one running a drum corps.
After spending a month of the 2004 tour volunteering on the support staff for the Blue Knights, I returned home with many wonderful memories. It had been 10 years since I had marched in the Blue Knights horn line and was pleased with how my corps had continued to grow and thrive. I especially enjoyed their 2004 show, "A Knight’s Tale" which featured the music of Trittico–the same music I played as a member in 1994.
When I returned home to San Antonio, my friend John called to ask if I was interested in helping bring the drum corps he founded, back out after going inactive in 2004. Revolution had only been around for a handful of years but had already captured a Division III DCI World Championship in 2002. John and I had marched together in the Blue Knights mellophone section 10 years earlier, so I was eager to help an old friend.
One of the biggest challenges of bringing an inactive drum corps back was overcoming all the negativity that surrounded the reason for going inactive in 2003. Nonetheless, I soon learned that rebuilding the image of the organization was a process; it could not be fixed overnight.
Fortunately, most of the equipment was still on hand. As we took inventory however, we learned that the condition of the equipment was rough. The percussion equipment did not hold up well in storage and some of the bugles were unaccounted for. So, my staff begged and borrowed whatever instruments and guard equipment they could get from their jobs and the local school bands. This was my hope for the best but plan for the worst scenario.
The lessons I had learned while marching in drum corps carried over when I became an administrator. Drum corps teaches you life-lessons while perfecting a performing art as a member. Now I realized that as a director, drum corps teaches you life lessons while you manage it. I found myself working just as hard as I did when I was a member. I quickly learned that I could not have done it without the great staff and volunteers that joined the team. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by such outstanding and dedicated people.
Once my corps director, Mark Arnold the director of the Blue Knights, had now become my friend and colleague. He was highly respected in the drum corps activity because of his successful tenure with the Blue Knights since 1986. He received the Dr. Baggs Leadership Award (informally known as the Division I Director of the Year award) for the way he led a successful hosting of the 2004 DCI World Championships in Denver. His guidance and wisdom helped me get Revolution going.
In addition, DCI Executive Director Dan Acheson and his team at DCI headquarters were supportive and advised me on the steps we would need to take, which included an extensive evaluation. The purpose of the evaluation was to ensure we were financially sound, organizational equipped, and properly prepared for the contingency of traveling +2,000 miles with 75 kids, 20 adult staff, two chartered coach buses, one tractor trailer, and a support vehicle. I learned that working with DCI was a positive thing and Revolution’s success was in both of our interests.
Those years as a corps director were two of the most challenging and rewarding of my life. That first year in 2005 was amazing. We brought a drum corps out of inactivity, fielded the largest corps in Division III, and competed in a flurry of 13 shows to include an appearance at DCI World Championships in Brockton, Mass. That was a lot for a ‘little’ Division III drum corps that was inactive the previous season.
In 2006, Revolution took 2nd place in Division III at the DCI Division II/III World Championships along with taking the Best Brass and Best Visual Performance captions. Our Drum Major, Traci Finch was selected as the Division III Drum Major of the Year and my fellow corps directors voted Revolution as the Most Improved Drum Corps in Division III in 2006. We even had a DCI I&E solo champion win the Oboe/Clarinet category (Amy Bennett, baritone player), which was the first I&E champion in Revolution’s short history. Not bad for the second year back from inactivity.
Overall, the members, instructors, administrative staff, volunteers, and supporters supported our vision: to create a genuinely unique drum corps experience that pushed everyone to strive for excellence. We may not have captured the Division III DCI World Championship but we sure had a great time bringing drum corps back to Texas.
As you have read, these are just a few highlighted accomplishments, lessons learned and challenges (among many) involved with running a drum corps. I learned many valuable lessons, some the hard way. In the end, I returned to the activity to give back what I had received as a member. That was the biggest lesson I learned – supporting the marching activity, as alumni, instructors, or fans, will ensure it grows and thrives well into the future.
So, I ask you, the reader–what have you done to support the activity today?
Company Front is a regular series of articles and essays, written by a group of young authors that have published books related to the marching arts. You’ll find all of the issues of Company Front by clicking here.
Originally from Boca Raton, Florida, Gregory M. Kuzma (who goes by "GM") surrounded himself with musical arts at a young age. He’s performed with several drum & bugle corps (junior and senior level) as well as spent time as a director and tour manager. He currently resides in San Antonio, Texas working as a freelance writer and is the author of "On the field from Denver, Colorado…The Blue Knights!" One member’s experience of the 1994 summer national tour." which is available from www.gregorymkuzma.com. The opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the author, who may be reached by writing to GMKuzma [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com?subject=Question%20from%20DCP%20Company%20Front.