Company Front – Issue 4

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An Unlikely Lesson

I deliberated for some time about what amazing and unique topic my first Drum Corps Planet article would cover. My fellow columnists had covered such a wonderful array of topics, I wasn’t sure where I was going to fit in. Then, late one night it suddenly occurred to me – luggage! (And to a greater extent, the cousins in the baggage family of Garment Bag, Hat Box, Duffle, and Backpack). Now, I’m sure those of you reading this column are scratching your heads wondering why I would choose such an unassuming inanimate object to discuss in a Corps article. I encourage you to stay with me, dear reader, and I think I’ll help you understand why there are some unavoidable (and often hidden) universal lessons that come from a summer full of touring or a spring shuttling between camps and home.

As you’re undoubtedly already aware (or perhaps you’ve heard the following phrase too many times to count) a lot of what you learn on the field will help you later in life. Whether you want to admit it or not, all cliches and generalizations aside, at some point in the future you will recognize the greatness and reality of all the hours you spent with the activity. And, as I recently discovered, not all of those lessons are right there in black and white. However, I realize that while you’re sweating in the hot sun marching at a tempo that you never thought possible, you’re probably not contemplating how that particular moment will impact the rest of the your life. More likely, you’re thinking that you’d really like something to drink, for the temperature to be about ten degrees cooler, or for your instrument to weigh absolutely nothing. Fortunately, today’s lesson is not really one of those bigger picture kind of analogies. It’s about the basics of packing, plain and simple.

So I ask you to sit back a moment and imagine yourself earlier this year. You, a proud member of a marching ensemble, were probably sitting in your room or apartment and looking at the sheer volume of stuff that had to be packed into a very small bag – because, after all, that’s all the space you were allowed. First and foremost? No doubt, the collective parts of your uniform. Whether you realize it or not, you were most likely doing a bit of prioritizing, organizing, and something I like to call, ‘belonging management.’ Because, of course, the one thing that matters beyond all others is that you have a complete and, bonus points here, clean uniform to perform in. Once the uniform (and all the parts that belong to it) is accounted for, you can begin packing everything else that you could possibly need – maybe its extra uniform parts, because you know as well as I do, that the rookie in your section is notorious for forgetting his gloves. Or perhaps you tour in a strange part of the country where any (and all) kinds of weather have been known to occur and you’re just preparing yourself for the inevitable. Or maybe you have an exceedingly long bus ride ahead and, being wonderful you, have elected yourself entertainment manager for the trip. No matter what the occasion, whatever is packed is ultimately your responsibility. So, you pack and repack, and somehow manage to cram everything that was scattered around your room in this small piece of baggage. Congratulations – you’ve gained a new life skill and one that you might not appreciate until later in life. One never knows; the next time you use your amazing packing skills may be for one of life’s monumental moments – preparing to go away to a college dorm room, your first apartment, or, in my case, moving everything you own to another country!

Now, as there’s going to be a lot of packing and repacking throughout the season, your aptitude with luggage is going to vastly improve. You’ll find what you thought you needed was all wrong, and what you needed the most, you forgot at home or on the bus or had to buy along the way, but somehow you made it through – dirty laundry and all. At the end of the day, packing becomes an automatic gesture that you take for granted, like brushing your teeth or putting your instrument and equipment safely away. Unfortunately, eventually there is going to come a point where it’s time to unpack your uniform and all your personal accoutrement (a fancy way of saying, junk) for the last time. You’re going to find stuff long forgotten in the depths of your bag: a piece of paper scrawled with a hilarious late night game of hangman, sheet music from the beginning of the season, a program from Finals, three kinds of glitter nail polish, a CD full of contraband performances and cadences, a spare AA battery, stick tape, valve oil, a mute that’s definitely not yours, a missing glove, remains of a practice pad, multiple Polaroid pictures of your crazy tan lines, a clean pair of black socks, a filthy pair of black socks, a used phone card, a receipt for any number of the countless energy drinks you’ve consumed, a broken shoelace, a wadded up and smelly poncho, your missing spat, glow sticks, a piece of gum, a packet of Emergen-C, a note from that guy you had a crush on weeks ago and now want nothing to do with, a wrapper from a late night stop at Subway. It is here that I would ask you to take a moment to really look at this collective stuff before you chuck it into the garbage can. The sad fact about marching, no matter which level you participate on, is that there is going to be a definite end. These bits and particles are the making of a season. This detritus is the tangible portion of the show you were a part of – reminders of the hours and sweat and tears spent in the sun and cold.

Oh darn, and here I promised that I wasn’t going to make this about the ‘bigger picture’. But the next time you gingerly duct tape your hat box, cram your sweaty uniform into an already ripping garment bag, or pray that the strap that is holding your backpack together won’t come apart for just one more trip, just remember what’s in that bag, and all that it stands for.

Courtney ‘My Suitcases Have Exploded’ Brandt
– from Dubai, UAE

P.S. I’d love to know the most random thing you’ve ever found in your bag at the end of the season. Write me at cbrandt [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com?subject=Company%20Front%20Column%20-%20What%20I%20found

Publisher’s Note:
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.

Twenty-something author Courtney Brandt proudly declares herself a ‘Jill of All Trades’ and is the author of The Line. Even though the author’s latest adventure takes her far from the marching field, Ms. Brandt is still humbly developing a fictional voice for the under-represented Band Geeks of the world. Although Courtney has enjoyed writing a number of Young Adult fiction novels on the subject, she looks forward to exploring individual nonfiction stories within the world of Drum and Bugle Corps. The opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the author, who may be reached by writing to cbrandt [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com?subject=Question%20from%20DrumCorpsPlanet">cbrandt [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com.

Posted by on Monday, October 22nd, 2007. Filed under Company Front.