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from A to Z: Crossmen 1992 and beyond

Twenty years ago, i tried out for drum corps for the first time in my life.

The whole thing happened on a whim. I had just been exposed to DCI maybe a month before from one of my marching band friends who showed the 1991 broadcast at his house one day when we were all hanging out. The marching band that i was a part of in high school was small and not very advanced, so i was in awe of what I saw, immediately thinking in my head, "wow, i'd love to do that."

As it happened, the choir director at our school was on medical leave, going through chemotherapy for cancer, and we had a sub, some guy whose name i don't remember. One of the color guard girls who was also in choir one day made some sort of announcement for people in the choir that were also in the marching band (there were a bunch of us), and the choir director talked about how he was a huge marching band fan and happened to be a visual tech for the Crossmen. After our choir rehearsal i immediately went up to him and asked him details about it, and he told me about the audition process, the where and when. So suddenly after only having heard the term "drum corps" for the first time a month ago, I was off to Delaware to do my first audition.

I remember being incredibly overwhelmed when i got there. There were a lot of people auditioning for every section, and everyone seemed to know each other except me. There were bass drummers practicing what were to me at the time insane split parts on the ground, and everyone else was kecking on pads that made it clear to me that i was outclassed.

That year, the final cut for auditionees didn't happen until maybe february or march. i'm sure part of it was to collect more camp fees to deal with costs, but it was also because the first camps were set up as educational opportunities for those auditioning as well as them assessing level of improvement. I remember practicing my arse off between the first and second camp, not because i thought i had a good chance of making the line, but because i was hungry. This was the first exposure i had ever had to any sort of advanced drumming or percussion skills. I saw what it could be, and i wanted it, i was obsessed with it. I was going to get good at it.

When i went back to the second camp, i remember that the caption head, Mark Thurston, took notice of me because of the improvements that i made. My memory of this is vague, but i have some recollection of him singling me out in front of everyone because it was clear how much work i had done from the previous camp to the current one, and i had a strong rate of improvement. I'm pretty sure i was embarrassed about the whole thing when everyone's eyes trained on me.

I didn't end up making the line that year - i got cut to cymbals and thought i was doing an okay job of it, but finally sometime around february or march, i got cut from the group. But the fact that Mark noticed me and singled me out both in that second camp and also the year after when i tried out again in 1993 (i had made huge strides during that year in terms of my skill) was the earliest form of external validation that i think i ever had, one of the first things that truly made a difference in my battle of low self-image and depression that had plagued me since middle school.

I ended up marching in Crossmen for two years - 1995 and 1996 - before aging out. My first year, 1995, was actually a pretty negative experience, and i almost defected to the Cadets until Bubba convinced me otherwise. My age out year had its struggles too, but it was also an amazingly rewarding experience, the Crossmen that i dreamt of being a part of. Our finals performance was incredibly emotional, and the memory will be with me forever. The tenor line all had tears in their eyes after performing our hearts out that finals night, and the culmination of everything that had gotten me there from the first time i tried out in 1992 embodied itself in that proud moment, where i was felt like i was a part of something truly special.

And it's funny because so much about the organization has changed between then and now; from its absorption into YEA! and some of the jarring transitions that happened during that time and then their subsequent breakout and move from the northeast to Texas. For all intents and purposes, you'd think that the organization is completely different, but as is always the case with a Brand, and particularly with the sort of focus that the design staff has been trying to do in the past couple of years, there is still something unmistakeably Crossmen about the Crossmen, something that when i saw even an online broadcast of them performing last year brought a pang of nostalgia and warmth in my heart.

It's something that i will always carry with me, the spirit of the Crossmen. Not always in ways obvious or direct, but without it, without the kind teachers and the not-so-kind teachers, without the struggles and the hardships and disappointments that would lead to great perseverance, rewards, and pride, the disappointments, i would not be even close to the person that i am today. And for that, i am truly thankful for the people who taught me and guided me.

Bones forever.


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March 2017