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Behind the Shades
By Dave Leon

In this edition of Behind the Shades, we introduce Johanna Miller, Pit Section leader and Corps Treasurer to the world. In the following interview, she talks about growing up in Pennsylvania, drum corps, and the many extra-curricular activities that she is involved.

7: What do you do for a living?

JM: I am a Project Coordinator for a Bay Area-based Investment Management firm called Fisher Investments. I’m the liason between the business and information technology. I write business and project specifications and QA applications when they are completed, and train users.

7: You marched with the Crossmen. How did you get involved with them?

JM: Lee (Rudnicki) taught my high school band my 7th grade year (back in the sticks of PA, high school band is grades 7-12). My section leader and Lee were and still are close. She took me to my first drum corps show - Allentown 1988. I still remember watching the Vanguard drum line warm up. I was hooked and so were a group of my friends.

My freshman year, Ed Teleky began writing and teaching the pit. We also had Marc Sylvester (Cadets drill writer) writing my high school’s drill, so after our little drum corps junkie group graduated we decided to audition for the Cadets.

My freshman year in college, I was attending West Chester University. If you don't know much about the school, most people there march Crossmen. I was getting grief from my roommate, who was coincidentally a graduate of Lee's high school alma mater, who just finished marching her rookie year as a mellophone for the Crossmen. Needless to say, the trek to Teterboro, NJ was not easy and after 2 out of the 4 of us got cut, it was not as fun as I had hoped, so I quit the Cadets after the December camp.

My roommate took it upon herself to put a call into Mark Thurston with the Crossmen to see if they were in the need of more pit members, and proceeded to take me to the next camp. It helped that I was dating a member of the snare line at that time so it did not take much persuading. Next thing I knew I was moved in and waiting for the buses to arrive.

7: What was it like growing up on the East Coast?

JM: Growing up on the east coast…more specifically the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area of Pennsylvania...I grew up in the Back Mountain rural area outside of Wilkes-Barre. I had 130 people in my graduating class. To us, Wilkes-Barre was the "city." Luckily, my family knew that there was more to life outside of Wilkes-Barre. We would go to Philly quite often as one of my mom's best friends lived down there. Once or twice a year we would go to New York to see a show on Broadway. Then, of course, there were my back-to-school shopping trips to the outlets in Reading, PA. I am very thankful for those experiences to get out of the Valley. I do wonder if not for those experiences if I would have gone away to school. If I did not go away to school I would probably still be living there and would not have marched drum corps or moved to CA. You get snow in the winter if you are lucky. Otherwise you get some sort of wintery mix. I learned to ski on ice, not powder, at Montage Mountain. Yes, they call that a ski resort back there. At least here in CA you can drive to snow if you want it. However, you do get snow days when you don't have to go to school and even offices close. Otherwise, I know the inside and outside of Lackawanna County Stadium like the back of my hand. Beginning my freshman year in HS every championship competition was held there. I also attended a good number of DCA shows there in the 90's.

7: How you get out to California? Was it a job, or something related to drum corps?

JM: While marching with Crossmen in ’94 - as mentioned I was initially dating a snare drummer - I met a bass drummer (former Renegades drummer Jonathan Steele) and we began dating that summer. Next thing we knew it was 3.5 years later and we were graduating from college. He asked what my plans were for after school. I really had no clue what to do. I had done a few job interviews in the Philly area, but nothing was what I thought I wanted. I needed to go to New York and really did not want to do that. My other option was to move back to Wilkes-Barre. He then asked if I would like to move to San Francisco with him. His brother had just moved out there and it was a great restaurant town. Since that is what he was planning on doing. So I said, what the hell, what do I have to lose? So 6 suitcases and I boarded a plane to SF July 1st of 1997 with no job or any contacts except for Jon and his brother.

7: How did you hear about the Renegades?

JM: That same friend who took me to my first DCI show was out here in 2000 doing the NBA All-Star show. She hooked up with Lee and we all met for lunch at Mel's on Van Ness and Geary. Lee started talking about this corps they started. Even back then if I remember he was saying that the Renegades were going to be famous. Then the email came in 2001 that they were thinking of having a pit for the 2002 season. The rest is history.

7: Everyone in the corps knows that you do work behind the scenes, but a lot of it is a mystery. What exactly do you do on the business side for the corps?

JM: I am the treasurer. I pay the bills, staff, collect all the money and make sure we don't go in the red. That is it in a nutshell. Beyond that, there are lots of little things. For instance, I leverage my dad back east for connections for DCA. One of my dad's friends who owns a small equipment dealership donated the John Deer Gator last year for us to pull the pit carts. We are working on a few more little perks for this year. I have dad working hard.

7: What was it like going back to such a small town after living in San Francisco for so long?

JM: The strangest thing is when you go out to a restaurant, they ask if you would like smoking or non-smoking. I found it especially funny on our first trip to DCA watching the smoking members of the corps still step outside to smoke even though they could have smoked inside. With that said, it seems that they are way behind in the times. It is frustrating. My family has a real hard time with the cost of living out here, especially my grandmother. It just seems that when I am home for the holidays it is like I did not leave. Nothing really changes. I do, however, enjoy the short visits, but am anxious to leave in about a week or two. What I especially enjoy when I go back is that my father lives in the country. It is so nice to be able to walk right out of your house and not see a person or hear a car or sirens; just the wind blowing in the trees, the rippling of the creek and our furry woodland creatures (turkey, deer, and a bear just to name a few). It is very peaceful there. I wish I could find that by just walking out my front door in the city at times. Instead I just need to drive an hour.

7: What do you like to do for fun outside of the corps? Any hobbies?

JM: I love sports. I played basketball for the past 3 years with Golden Gate Sport and Social Club. I also played volleyball with them for a few years. I was on the Broker League softball team when I worked in the city. I am also the treasurer for my Home Owners Assocation. Then there is the usual hanging with friends. One of my favorite things, especially in the city, is eating out. There are wonderful places to eat and you don't always have to leave your paycheck. There are some awesome dives - mostly ethnic.

7: Would you consider yourself a workaholic?

JM: Yes, no doubt. I can't sit still. I probably had/have ADHD. That is how I ended up in music. Mom did not know what to do with me, so she made me take Organ lessons. Wow, did that backfire for them.

7: What was your best moment with the Renegades, on or off the field?

JM: Wow, that is tough. First was playing again - I love to perform. It is just a wonderful feeling. Then there are the people. Meeting people with similar interests is always awesome. My network of friends has grown so much through this organization. That network of friends has gotten me through a lot in the last 2 years. It is just a general high that I get performing.

7: So with everything that you do, why make the sacrifice to be in the corps? Seems that it would free up a lot of time for you to do other things if you weren't marching.

JM: Yeah, it would. I ask myself that quite a bit, especially on Mondays after camps. I get so sore…and I don't march! I would say it goes back to my other answer…performing and people. I just wanted to play again.

7: Any other accomplishments you want to note?

JM: Here are a few tidbits: I was my church's organist for a year, I went to state band on alto clarinet 2 out of the 3 years. I play sax and bassoon as well, and I’m trying to learn flute. I attended a music camp at a local university (Wilkes) from the summer before 8th grade until the summer before my freshman year in college. That’s when I got the performance bug. Lake-Lehman (my high school program) won the ACC (Atlantic Coast Championship) every year I was in the band. For a small hick town, we were pretty good. It also extended to our indoor guard and concert band as well. Our jazz band never did as well. I guess a bunch of white hicks can't get loose and swing.

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