Coming to us all the way from Utah….
I grew up in a very small town in Western Canada and never heard about drum corps until I was too old to participate. It was one of my few regrets.
My oldest daughter made the Blue Knights trumpet line last year, just after she turned 17, and spent the summer telling me what an amazing experience it was performing with drum corps. When I told her how much I regretted not being able to do something similar at her age, she told me there were all-age corps and I should join one.
Utah doesn’t have any drum & bugle corps so I went online to find one. It had to be competitive, play compelling music and it had to look like a fun group. The Renegades kept jumping out at me online so I went to Renegades.org and started to read. The first thing I read was how Ray and Madge Sanchez joined the Renegades. I thought, “I could hang with these people. They sound pretty cool.”
That night, at big band rehearsal, I mentioned my interest in drum corps to another trumpet player, Lance Lee. Lance said, “I have to introduce you to my friends! They’re big-time drum corps people. Ray and Madge Sanchez. I think they march with the San Francisco Renegades. It’s a really fun group. Let me find their contact information for you.”
Well, the Universe doesn’t have to hit me over the head with a 2X4. Clearly I belonged with the Renegades!
I hadn’t played trumpet in 27 years. I picked my horn up again in January of this year. Getting my lip back and rebuilding my skills to play lead took some serious time and effort. I found a private instructor and carved out 15 hours a week for practice.
I also had to find a way to fly from Salt Lake to California for every rehearsal and performance, New York for finals, hotels and car rentals and food… and then I invited my son, a tenor player, to join me. I found a better-paying job, increased the amount of work I’m doing through my graphic design business, sold a few things, and cut way back on every other expense possible.
And then there are the physical barriers. I have 8 herniated or deteriorated discs. I’ve had surgeries to fuse some of them and take pressure off of nerves but I’m still in pain – all day, every day. I made a personal commitment that I would not allow myself to quit on a weekend. It had to be at least Tuesday.
The cool thing is that every weekend is less difficult and last weekend the thought of quitting didn’t even cross my mind. The more fit I become, the better I feel and the more
endurance I have. Marching drum corps is the only physical activity I can push myself to do for longer than 2 hours at a stretch. As of the beginning of June, I’m more fit and have less
pain than I have in 5 years.
Getting my lip back and improving my technical skills on the G horn has translated to the trumpet. I was invited to be a gigging member of the Wasatch Jazz Project Big Band in
March, I got called last week to get paid to play 1st trumpet for Hello Dolly! for a community group whose trumpet couldn’t handle the music, and I’m on the sub list for the Murray Symphony. I’m a better musician now than I ever was as a kid.
I attribute a lot of my new skills to the things I’ve learned from the truly great musicians I’ve met through the Renegades, including Rich Duarte, the soprano screamer who has
taught me about relaxing, subdividing, intonation and note attack, the great Joey Pero, who gives us a series of master classes whenever he joins us for a weekend, and Tiffany Carrico, who tells me to shut up, stop thinking, and just blow!
The Ultimate Payoff
The physical and musical improvements are great, but the ultimate payoff is the friendships I’ve formed with many Renegades, including Ray and Madge Sanchez, who have been my close friends and strong supporters from the moment we met. The impression I had when I first read about how they joined the Renegades was correct – they are very cool people!
Sometimes, everything comes together and puts you in the right place at the right time. For me, marching with the Renegades this year is exactly right.