The drum and bugle corps business is serious.
For the best show bands in the country, top-secret marching designs are bestowed on musicians who are athletes, showmen and women, and serious students of their instruments. The players drill the precision marching as if they were preparing for a presidential command performance. Then they compete against one another during cross-country tours.
Lee Smith, Ryan High School’s associate director of bands, said the drum and bugle corps work hard on the field to keep the audience’s attention.
“It’s definitely the quality of the production and the quality of the performance,” said Smith, who opens Ryan High to the touring drum and bugle corps for their local performances. “It’s literally the difference between watching high school football and professional football. The speed is faster, the quality is better, the precision is infinitely more complex.
“These groups spend literally hundreds of hours on the music choices, the color choices and all the way to the props and the staging. If it’s happening in the show, someone has spent a lot of time working on how that’s supposed to happen.”
For the Red River Thunder performer, you’re only as good as your last show.
Next week, the Texas show band contest brings 11 drum and bugle corps from all over the country to Denton for the eighth year. The corps will entertain and probably dazzle first-timers, said Stan Boduch, co-chairman of the Cavaliers, a drum corps from Rosemont, Ill.
Boduch said the Texas drum and bugle corps show comes from a long history of bands that were part of communities all over the nation, often run by Veterans of Foreign War posts and at the ready to perform at town ceremonies and events.
Now, drum and bugle corps are under the umbrella of Drum Corps International, and they’re operated as prestigious youth organizations. Young adults ages 16 to 21 audition for their favorite band, and if they’re accepted, they rehearse the music daily. When tour season comes — in the summer, mostly — they move into their band’s rehearsal complex to learn their marching designs. And their precision drills, if they’re flag or rifle team members.
Then the groups hit the road, playing in cities for fans. Their fans are the type who enjoy halftime more than they like football.
“I had nothing to do with picking Denton, but I’m on the board, and I was on the board when we started talking about adding a show to the tour,” Boduch said. “Someone said we ought to do one in Texas because they thought we could make some good money there. Lee Smith was named as a guy who could help make a Texas show happen.”
Boduch said the stadium — the school district’s C.H. Collins Athletic Complex — was a big draw for having a drum and bugle show in Denton.
“The parking is really good,” Boduch said. “It’s right off the highway, and there are no restaurants nearby so people will buy concessions.”
The boosters also sell a souvenir program at the show and raises money through corporate sponsorships. Boduch said the boosters get a cut of the proceeds from ticket sales.
Smith said the Ryan High School Band Boosters, a nonprofit group made up mostly of band member parents, has been able to cut “almost all” of the individual fundraisers from the band program thanks to the Red River Thunder Drum and Bugle Show. Individual fundraising projects usually set the student off selling products to raise money.
“We honestly got tired of it,” Smith said of the ongoing fundraising, “and our goal was to make maximum revenue in the shortest amount of time. We have a couple of fundraisers we still do, but we’ve almost eliminated the individual fundraising. That’s good, because it wasn’t really all that effective.”
By selling concessions at the Red River Thunder show, Smith said the boosters have been able to put money into the band’s operating fund and tuck about $7,000 into a scholarship fund. The scholarships are wide ranging, sending some college-bound seniors to school with money, covering private lessons for sophomores, juniors and seniors, and covering the costs of the high school band for talented students from low-income families.
The first Red River drum show was in 2005, the same year leaders from the Cavaliers came to Denton to check out the stadium.
“Since that first show, we’ve had nothing but rave reviews from audience members and from journalists with [Drum Corps International],” Smith said. “They’re blown away.”
Boduch said the drum corps tradition is just as special to the corps members.
“For a lot of these kids, they’ve wanted to be in one of the corps for a long time. Say they saw the Blue Devils from out in California,” Boduch said. “They might live in Chicago, not far from the Cavaliers. But they love the Blue Devils. They love the uniform and the corps, and they do everything they can to be in that corps.”
Smith said two Ryan High alumni will march in this year’s Red River Thunder, both with the Crossmen from San Antonio.
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877.
Drums corps bringing the boom to Denton next week (listed in reverse order of performance):
The Cavaliers — Rosemont, Ill.
Blue Devils — Concord, Calif.
Carolina Crown — Fort Mill, S.C.
The Cadets — Allentown, Pa.
Santa Clara Vanguard — Santa Clara, Calif.
Blue Knights — Denver, Colo.
Spirit of Atlanta — Atlanta, Ga.
Crossmen — San Antonio
Blue Stars — La Crosse, Wis.
Colts — Dubuque, Iowa
Mandarins – Sacramento, Calif.