Annual Drums Across Kansas competition on tap

07/12/2012 5:00 AM

07/13/2012 10:58 AM

Six elite national drum corps will light up Wichita State University’s Cessna Stadium for the annual Drums Across Kansas competition.

Two of the six corps have won Drum Corps International World Champion titles before, including reigning champion The Cadets of Allentown, Pa.

To be in a drum corps takes a special kind of person. For these high school and college-age musicians, days are spent rehearsing in the summer sun and nights are spent traveling in buses.

“These kids pay $3,000 to practice in 105-degree heat, sleep on gym floors and eat food from food trucks,” said Ross Viner, organizer of Drums Across Kansas, a Benefit For The Starkey Foundation. “It’s very structured.”

Most of the participating musicians have no problem with that, though, including Augusta native Kris Borden, who plays mellophone with The Cavaliers, of Rosemont, Ill.

“It’s a learning process, but it has definitely helped me a lot in school and in all the other facets of my life,” Borden said. “Your whole days are planned out. You have to plan your showers ahead of time.”

This is East High School senior Mary Lyon’s first summer with the Music City drum corps, based in Memphis, Tenn. Lyon said it has been a rewarding, yet tiring experience.

“This is pretty much the top of the marching band world,” Lyon said. “It gives you self-confidence when you realize you can push yourself to do that.”

When various corps travel, they bring a full entourage with them. A typical convoy consists of four buses for the members, a semi truck converted into a makeshift kitchen, a semi for equipment, a semi for souvenirs and a camper for the administration, she said.

This takes about $1 million to $1.5 million to accomplish, Viner said.

“This economy has really hurt a lot of people,” Viner said.

Viner said he has seen an increase in Wichita-area drummers making these national corps in recent years. This year, he estimates that seven to 10 local drummers made the cut.

Drummers first send in audition tapes to corps nationwide and then are invited to camps. At each camp, Viner said, 400 to 500 brass, percussion and color guard specialists compete for 150 positions.

Last year, the musicians played at Wichita’s annual event in spite of 115-degree heat that afternoon. This year, the weather will be a little more bearable for everyone, Viner said.

The public is invited to watch the drum corps practice for free at their respective local host high schools — including Wichita Collegiate and Andover high schools — on Tuesday afternoon. For a listing of which corps will be practicing where, visit www.drumsacrosskansas.com.

At the competition Tuesday evening, each corps will perform a separate show, consisting of four to five songs with drums, brass and color guard.

Veteran national judges will critique the categories of musical general effect, visual general effect and proficiency to determine the winner. Scores will be announced to the audience at the end of the event.

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