Recently, Kayla Poor wasn’t able to put down her mellophone, the marching band version of the French horn, until 2 am.
She spent hours taping herself playing scales, marching up and down the music building and even acting out fake scenes. She said she knew she could take a break and finish the next day, but her motivation pushed her through the night.
When it comes to living your dream, losing a few hours of sleep isn’t a concern, Poor said.
A handful of UF students are preparing to start the months-long audition process for Drum Corps International, a modern drum and bugle corps that tours from May to August. Different corps, or marching bands, spend all summer on the road performing at different competitions across the country.
It’s not just music majors who participate in this summer activity.
Jacob Morrison and Keenan Lind, engineering juniors at UF, have been involved with Drum Corps for five and four years, respectively. They both have marched with the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps, based out of Lakeland.
Morrison, 20, said engineering is all about hard work and teamwork, both of which are huge aspects of drum corps.
“Every position I’ve ever interviewed for, they ask me about the typical strengths, weakness, teamwork skills and so on,” Morrison said. “I have a very real and very detailed answer for each one thanks to everything I’ve learned from drum corps.”
Morrison has been involved since he was 15 and said throughout his past five summers, he has learned how to hold himself to a higher standard. He said he is convinced it was the reason he got into college and the reason he will get a job.
Participating in DCI can cost thousands of dollars depending on the corps one marches with, Morrison explained. These fees cover meals, housing, transportation and more.
Morrison and Lind said they aren’t concerned about missing out on summer internships because of all of the real-world experiences that come from drum corps.
“It’s nice to put on a resume that you work with a world-class organization,” Lind said. “To say you’re the 10th best in the world at something, regardless of what it is, is not easy.”
Lind said the only thing that is hard about Drum Corps is trying to explain it to employers, because many don’t immediately see the value.
“It’s so much more important than just a typical marching band,” he said. “Drum Corps has history, and you get to be a part of something bigger than you can ever imagine.”
Lind said he wears his Boston Crusaders necklace every day as a reminder to hold himself to a higher standard. The necklace holds a part of his marching helmet from the first year he marched as well as one bead on each side for every year he has marched.
“I am the person I am today thanks to drum corps,” Lind said.
Poor, a music education junior, has been playing the French horn for 10 years. But it was only this past summer that she was able to participate in Drum Corps.
Poor said it was freshman year of high school when she realized she wanted to march with the horn line. But it wasn’t until recently she believed it was possible.
“For me, I’ve always been a bigger kid,” Poor said. “The moment I decided, ‘Screw it, I’m going to try,’ was the summer after my first year of college.”
This decision marked a turning point for Poor, she said, because the audition process lasts months and involves a lot of training – musical, physical and mental.
Poor decided she was going to audition for her favorite corps, Phantom Regiment. The audition process typically begins in November, and students travel to weekend camps where staff members from the corps will grant spots, make cuts or give callbacks.
She was called back five times, which she said was a little unusual. It was a long process because the staff kept focusing on how she looked instead of what she was capable of, she said.
“The process was very frustrating,” Poor said. “So many people told me I was the hardest working person in the entire corps.”
Poor ended up winning a spot while at spring training and was able to spend her summer doing what she loves: performing with her “phamily” on tour for thousands of people.
“It really helped me grow in all aspects,” Poor said. “It helped me grow emotionally, physically, and looking back at what I did this summer, it’s insane.”
From move-ins in May to championships in August, she traveled from school to school, sleeping on an air mattress in a gymnasium and showering in groups. Days would typically be 13 hours long in all kinds of weather, ranging from the Illinois sleet to the Louisiana sun.
Participating in DCI will push back Poor’s expected graduation date due to her inability to take summer classes, but she said she wouldn’t trade her experience for anything in the world.
“I’m a music ed major, so doing something like this really helps my professional development,” Poor said. “I grew so much as a musician this summer, more than I would if I had taught at a band camp or something.”
Poor, Morrison and Lind are currently working on their music and getting in shape for the upcoming fall camps. Due to the age-out rule that states one cannot march past 22 years old, this would be the final summer for both Lind and Poor.
“I’m graduating a semester late thanks to drum corps, but it’s worth it,” Poor said. “I would stay two extra semesters if it meant I could march another year. I’m living my dream.”