Drum and bugle corps are known for their musicianship and precision. Their members spend months learning the music and drill and weeks perfecting their show before beginning the competition season.
This summer, Kiernan Baker of Seward will find out what it’s like firsthand. The SHS graduate was selected to the Colts Drum and Bugle Corps based in Dubuque, Iowa.
Baker first heard about drum and bugle corps when then-band instructor Tommy Krueger showed some video clips during his freshman year. He started looking at groups in the area and, this year, decided to give it a try.
He and Levi Homp, also of Seward, went to a camp in November to see what the corps was about. Baker was notified of a recall audition in December and got an email Jan. 1 telling him he’d made the cut.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” he said.
He’s spent the last five months learning the music (he plays the baritone) and the drill, or the choreography, for the summer show.
The corps got together at its home in Dubuque May 24 and will spend the next
month perfecting its show.
“Then we’ll tour the country,” Baker said.
The tour goes from Chicago east to Georgia and then north to Pennsylvania. In mid-August, the Colts will come back to Indianapolis, Indiana, for the final competition.
Corps are scored at every show they perform, whether it’s a small competition or a regional contest, Baker said. They’re ranked for the preliminary nationals round by their last score. After the prelims, the top teams advance to the semifinals, and the top 12 make the finals.
“The goal is to make finals,” Baker said. “We want to be as good as we can be.”
“The Colts have ranked in the top 25 of all drum corps for the past 34 years, including top-12 international finalist status eight of the past 24 years,” a news release said.
More than 40 Drum Corps International corps compete around the U.S.
The Colts include 75 horns plus the percussion and color guard. Everyone gets to know everyone else, Baker said.
“The Colts membership experience is an intensive, challenging and high achievement environment where life and leadership skills are taught,” the news release said. “The Colts travel and perform throughout the summer, beginning Memorial Day weekend and concluding the second weekend of August. The group will be in session nearly 80 days and perform over 30 times for an audience estimated to number over 200,000 people while traveling throughout the United States.”
When it travels, the group stays in school gyms. Meals are prepared in a kitchen truck that travels with them. The news release said more than 60,000 meals will be prepared in the truck that includes convection ovens and a walk-in freezer/refrigerator.
The caravan includes four motor coaches, two semi trucks, two vans, one prop truck and a souvenir sales trailer.
Baker said this summer’s show has been well thought out. Performers needed to have the music memorized by the time they moved in so they could focus on the drill during rehearsals.
As a baritone player, Baker needs to be in good physical shape to carry the instrument throughout the summer. He’s been doing three workouts a week, including sprint work and weight training.
On May 3, Baker said he had three of the five songs memorized and was working on the drill.
“There’s a lot of visual – 19 movements,” he said.
According to colts.org, the corps’ website, this year’s theme is When Hell Freezes Over.
“‘Redemption is not just about the survival of our soul. It’s about the revival of a soul that was once dead.’ — Rebekah Hallberg.
“Featuring the music of AC/DC, Robert W. Smith, Camille Saint-Saens, Frederic Chopin and Bob Dylan, the Colts explore the depths and dualities of a place one hopes to never know. In the struggle, there is light. Beyond the inferno, there is ice. Yet no soul is so forsaken that it cannot find its way to heaven’s door,” the website said.
With just four instruments on the horn line, the performances don’t sound like a traditional band or orchestra.
Baker was looking forward to the challenges of the summer – making new friends and growing more confident. He had already learned a lot as he prepared for this summer.
“It’s fun to make music,” he said. “I think it will prepare me for later in life. It’s how to adjust to life without my parents around. I think it will help me grow as a person and musically.”
Baker plans to attend Wayne State College and major in music education and be part of the WSC marching band, as well.
“Just go for it,” was his advice to anyone considering trying out for a drum and bugle corps. “The worst that can happen is they say no.”