Renegades baritone player Joe Wilt is the subject of our first Behind the Shades feature. He has been a member since 1997, the legendary "7 horn players and a ham sandwich'' days. In the following interview, he talks about how he ended up on the west coast, his first experiences with drum corps, and his thoughts about the future of the Renegades.
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I'm a sales rep for a commercial printer, which means that I work with marketing departments and graphic design firms. I print advertising brochures, annual reports, direct mailings, and that sort of thing. My company's in LA so it involves travel a lot. All of our presses are in L.A. Cerritos, actually.
Q: That explains your being an avid Lakers fan.
A: Actually, I was a Lakers fan as a kid back east. My dad was a Celtics fan, so I became a Lakers fan, he was a Mets fan so I became a Yankees fan, he was a Bills fan so I became a Dolphins fan. I had to keep it interesting. (laughs)
Q: You come from a drum corps family. Who else is involved and what do they do?
A: My dad's a lead baritone with St. Joe's alumni corps. His drum corps days date back to the 1950's. He's still active with the alumni corps. My mom is in the color guard of the alumni corps and she was a horn player as a kid. They met when they were 14 in junior drum corps, which was the Emerald Cadets.
My brother...last year was his first year ever in drum corps. He grew up around it and loved it, but just never did it. He was a trombone player in high school. Last year he picked up a baritone and joined the family activity, so now he's playing baritone with St. Joe's alumni.
Q: Was that the same story for you? Did you wait for a while before you got involved?
A: Actually no, I started when I was about 6 years old. I played in the Patriots peanut corps and up through middle school. However, during high school years and college stopped playing because I was into sports and was busy chasing girls. I didn't do any drum corps again until post-college because, where I grew up, I knew that I could always do senior corps.
I look back and I regret not marching with a top junior corps. All these people that I know that I march with today marched with Division 1 corps, so I do have some regrets there, but I always knew that senior corps would be there waiting for me when I had the time to focus on it. When I was in college I had summer jobs and internships; I just didn't have the time to do it.
Q: But you eventually wound up coming out to the west coast. What brought you out here? How did you hear about the Renegades and what got you started with them?
A: I performed at the Whitewater show with St. Joe's in 1997 and had the opportunity to watch the Santa Clara Vanguard Alumni Corps. I spoke to some of the Vanguard guys, knowing that I was moving out to the West Coast in the fall and said "I want to play in a drum corps. Can I play with you guys?'' They told me to "Come on down!" After moving out west, I attended a rehearsal and was told it was for alumni only. Soon after, Christina Mavroudis (cymbal player) told me to check out a new group called the Renegades.
I contacted Brandon Wilson, Corps Director, and headed down to a rehearsal. There were five horn players playing Christmas carols for a performance in another corps members' neighborhood. The next year we did a parade or two. The following year, 1999, consisted mainly of an infamous standstill at the Stockton Show. We had about 16 horns and played "Hava Nagila'' and "Black Saddle.'' I really didn't think that senior corps would ever really take out here, even with all the Vanguard, Blue Devil, Freelancer and VK alumni around.
Q: What do you do outside of the corps to unwind?
A: I just got engaged and bought a house. As far as hobbies, I love all kinds of music. I love to go watch live music. I love to play golf. Outside of that, I don't really have time to do a lot. My job is not a 9 to 5 job where I can turn it off. When a client calls or they're on a deadline, I have to accommodate.
Q: What would you like to see the Renegades organization focus more on?
A: I'd love to see a Renegades alumni organization. That's what keeps the fires burning; works the bingos, the booster table and can jump in and do parades and standstill gigs
Q: So what do you see happening with the corps this year, and even three, four or five years down the road?
A: This year we've made huge improvements in the drumline and color guard. I think we have a much better show concept this year as far as a cohesive show. Drill, far and above what we've done, so I think we'll move up. I'd love to say top five, but I don't know what everybody else has. I'd love to be on board with the plan that next year would be our year to contend, but who knows? I'm having fun doing it, and I hope we do contend because I'd like to take a couple
of years off and start a family and have a DCA ring.