The Bender Report

April 2006 Camp Notes
By Nancy Bender

"CLEANING IN APRIL"!!!
The Royal Airs met on the parking lot at Maine West High School on Saturday morning to begin learning the drill for the 2006 show. The Maine West marching band uses this lot and it is marked off with yard lines and hash marks. Unfortunately, it only goes from the 20 to the 20 in yard lines, so our “starting line” was on the 20yd line. When we would fill back in to the “30-yd line”, we would have to stop and go back to the “real” 30-yd line to continue the drill. Paul mentioned that he hoped we wouldn’t do this in the show! We had great weather for a drill camp, sunny, temperatures in the low to mid 60’s, a bit of a wind blowing, overall a really nice day. On Saturday we learned the opener, the first drum solo going into concert, and then the drum solo going into the closer. The drill is VERY similar to last year’s drill, but we are in different spots and there are a few differences where Paul had to “tweak” the drill, so we really had to think about it. We got an hour and a half lunch break and I ended up at a local Chinese Buffet with a number of other Royal Airs. This place was fantastic! A good time and a good meal was had by all! Back on the “field” and continue drill practice after lunch; ooh, too much Chinese food!!! It was kind of nice marching in the parking lot because there weren’t too many uneven spots, but we did have two vehicles parked in the middle of our “field”, not to mention the light posts! We learned the drum solo going into the closer, then ran everything we had learned that day. They let us go at 5pm for dinner, another hour and a half!! Since I was still full from lunch, I took this opportunity to check in at the motel and stretch out for a short nap. The down side of marching on the parking lot, it’s all concrete. By this time of the day, my body was really hurting. It sure felt good to kick off the shoes and stretch out for a while! At 6:30pm the horns met in the band room and began that block with breathing exercises. I really like that we are concentrating on using our air correctly and more efficiently. This will really help when we start playing while we drill. We then worked on some chorales, “Rainy Day” and “Greensleeves”. What a full sound! Shows what proper breathing will do for you! We then worked on “Sing, Sing”, taking it at a faster tempo than we have before. It held together pretty well until the middle, then it started to break down. So we backed up and addressed some issues and finished out the piece. We then worked on “Stars & Stripes” so that we would be able to put it with the drums. After a 10-minute break, the drums joined the horns and we played right through “Chicago” and “Stars & Stripes”. WOW!!! We then played through “What Kind of Fool”, with yours truly taking the solo the first time and Bill Bauer the second time, and then right into “Alexander’s” at a slightly faster tempo than last year. By now it was after 8:30pm and had definitely been a LONG day. We had a short meeting with announcements and then the singing of the corps song. It was the end of a very good day!

Sunday started back on the “field” to learn the drill for the closer and the re-entry. Folks, we learned 54 pages of drill in one weekend!!! Not only that, but most of the lines were pretty straight and cover and dress looked pretty good!! We worked on the re-entry drill, then went back to the closer, then the drum solo before that, and worked our way back to the beginning. We started on the starting line and worked on CLEANING the drill for “Chicago”. Paul said, “I can’t believe I’m working on cleaning in April!” We finished up at noon and were given a 30-minute break before sectional rehearsals starting at 12:30. Most of the horn rehearsal was going to be spent on working the tunes for next weekend’s appearance in Madison at Rockin’ for a Cure, a fund-raiser for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. I decided to get a head start on the drive back to St. Louis, trying to beat some storms that were forecast to come through the area in the evening. The horns elected to stay outside for this block, and it was really nice to be playing outside again. I think everybody’s got that drum corps “itch” to get the season started! After the horns worked on some stuff, the drum line came over and joined them. Christine Henze acted as drum major and led the corps through this block. It was really great to see her back at camp! It just doesn’t get any better than this, standing outside playing drum corps charts. It’s been a long, cold winter! After a wrap-up meeting, it was the singing of the corps song, clean up the area, and head for home. I arrived back home around 5:30pm, unloaded the car, unpacked, ordered a pizza and collapsed in my recliner. I dozed off around 7pm and was awakened a short time later by a clap of thunder and heavy rain beating on the roof. This would have been the time I would be getting close to home if I had stayed, so I was glad I was in for the night! I had such a blast this weekend!! I’ve really been itching to get outside and start drill for this season. Paul Zimny did a splendid job teaching the drill and the corps just relaxed and did what they were told. And look what we accomplished! Of course, it will be interesting to see what happens when we add playing to the mix! But I suspect it won’t be too much of a problem. I am definitely excited about getting this season off and running and I can’t wait for next month’s camp. Review your drill and let’s get that music memorized. It’s going to be another fun season!

For the White & Blue,

Nancy L. Bender

February 2006 Camp Notes
By Nancy Bender

I left St. Louis at 5:30am on Saturday and headed north, arriving at our camp location around 10:45am. It was pretty cold and windy and I was glad we were indoors. The horns were set up in the band room working on "Sing, Sing, Sing". It sounded a little rough, but then it was early in the weekend. I hadn’t touched my bugle since Scranton! I’ve been playing a lot on my trumpet, but I really had trouble finding the notes on the bugle!! We worked a bit more as an ensemble and then we split into sections to work on the music individually. Once again, the bar has been raised! We came back together 30 minutes later and ran those sections again, this time with much more success. We then broke for lunch and the band boosters provided tacos with the fixin’s and strawberry shortcake for dessert. It was during this time that I finally got a chance to catch up with the other sections of the corps. Wow, it’s been a long time! An hour later we were all back at work. The horns worked on "Chicago Fanfare" and "Stars & Stripes" since this is a good parade tune. We also tried to use the techniques we were taught that morning to play longer notes and complete phrases. We then went back to work on "Sing,..", concentrating more on the second page. After about an hour we stopped to nominate and vote on section reps. The duties of the reps were outlined and it was emphasized that these positions would take quite a bit of outside time. After all the votes were in the results were announced. The sections reps are:

Tony Gonzalez – Soprano
Louie Klozik – Mello
Lisa Nuske – Bari
Rich Stanczak – Contra
Jay McGuffin – Drums
Christa Carson – Flags
Debbie Dettmann – Rifles

From these seven people we later voted for three to be representatives on the Board of Directors. The Board Reps are:

Louie Klozik
Lisa Nuske
Rich Stanczak

The horns broke into individual sections again to work out some more sections of "Sing, ..". Then we all got together again and the piece finally started to rock. We broke for supper at about 5pm. The band boosters offered stuffed shells, salad, and breadsticks for supper. I opted to head over to the motel to get checked in, then I hit the drive-thru at Steak & Shake (no Chinese food this weekend!). Rehearsals started up again around 6:15 or so. We were all introduced to Randy Mayer who spoke to us about a task force that has been formed to assist the Board of Directors in making sure everything is run legally and smoothly. Randy has years of experience in running non-profit organizations and should be a real asset to the corps. We pretty much wrapped up rehearsal around 8:30pm with the singing of the corps song. Some folks went to a local establishment for refreshments, but I headed straight for my room!

Sunday started at 9am, again in sectionals. The first thing the horns worked on was breathing. Now, I know this should be a no-brainer, but proper breathing will greatly enhance our sound quality. After about 10 minutes or so, we tried to put this breathing technique into playing; simple warm-up stuff and scales. We then worked on several of our warm-up tunes, again focusing on proper breathing. Back to "Sing, .." and try to continue playing with good breath support. There was one section that was still giving us a little trouble, so we split up into sections and worked it out. When we got back together and played through the chart, we sounded like we had 60 horns in the room! Wow, what a difference good breath support can make! We took a break at 1:15 and the drums came in and started to set up to play with the horns. I decided to leave at that time to get a head start on the drive home, but I have been told that the ensemble went pretty well! They played "Chicago Fanfare" and "What Kind of Fool" together. They worked on different ways to connect "Fool" to "Alexander’s", then the drum line played a solo they had learned called "Tight Spot", which really sounded pretty good! Then the horn line played all of "Sing, Sing, Sing" that we had learned. All in all, I think it was a really successful camp! The difference in "Sing,.." from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon is literally night and day. A huge THANK YOU goes out to Lisa for leading the horn line this weekend! Let’s all try to remember what we learned. Things ran amazingly well and the corps members were able to spend the weekend concentrating on playing, drumming, spinning, etc. I’ll tell you, it was quite a playing work-out, but I loved every minute of it! John will be at camp in March with the rest of the music. I can’t wait to get started learning this stuff!! Come on out for the next camp and have a great time playing some great music!

For the White & Blue,

Nancy

OSWEGO/LISLE
By Nancy Bender

Friday, June 17 – Rehearsal began at 2pm in the stadium in Mooseheart, IL with those who could make it that early. Dave and I arrived around 2:45pm and headed for the field. We rehearsed chunks of the show, checking dress and cover. By 4pm most of the corps was there. We continued rehearsing, first drill only, then adding playing to the mix. By 6pm we were ready for some run-throughs. It was decided that, while the drill for the re-entry was not too bad, we would leave it out of the show for tonight. We would stand after the spill-out in the closer and just play the re-entry. We were dismissed at about 7:15pm and headed for our motel to clean up and get into uniform. It was fun to watch the faces of the “rookies” as they prepared for their first show as Royal Airs. We met at the show site in Oswego and went through warm-ups. We were last on at 9:40pm. It was a cool evening with a slight breeze blowing when we entered the stadium and lined up on the starting line. The next thing I knew, it was over. This always happens! We work so long and so hard, and it’s all over before we know it! The audience was receptive, especially the two concert pieces. After we trooped the stands we were told to line up with the Cavaliers! We marched back out onto the field with the Cavies and RA interspersed with one another. We formed an arc on the field while the scores were announced and then Roderic climbed up into the stands to conduct “America/O Canada”. Both of our corps had not had the music for this for very long, and quite a few of us did not have it memorized! In spite of that, I have to say it was one heck of a thrill for me to stand on the field with the Cavies!!! I hope I have the opportunity to talk with them again. After the festivities, we went back to the motel, changed clothes, then took over the bar area at Applebee’s. The manager eventually had to chase us out so he could close down and send his people home! We got back to the motel around 1am and I went right to sleep!

Saturday, June 18 – We didn’t have to be at rehearsal today until noon, so we all took advantage and slept in. After a quick breakfast at the motel, we headed back to Mooseheart and broke into sectionals. We worked out some rough spots in the music, then headed back out on the field for drill. We reviewed the closer and then the re-entry. After a while it was looking pretty good! I think this is the earliest we have ever had the whole show ready to go! We were given a meal break around 3:30 and Dave, Kos, and I found a Chinese place, of course!! Back out on the field and run the show in blocks from the opener. We called it a day around 8pm. Dave, Kos, Tony and I headed for Naperville where we were spending the night. I was pretty tired and fell asleep quickly!

Sunday, June 19 – Rehearsal began at 10am, again in Mooseheart. We started in sectionals and really worked on balancing some of the chords! We then headed onto the field to review drill. This block seemed to go pretty well, in spite of the warmer temperatures! We did two run-throughs, first without playing, then with playing. We broke up around 2pm and headed back to Naperville to clean up and get ready for the show in Lisle. It turns out that our motel was only 10 minutes from the stadium! We were scheduled to go on first, at 6pm, in the sun! This is a fairly new stadium and the stands are set back a ways from the field. The turf was artificial and seemed like it was a little slick. We lined up on the starting line and took off. When we formed the company front on the 30-yd line, it seemed like the field had shrunk in width! I have no idea what happened, but on my side, we were off!! Somehow we pulled it together and finished the opener in grand style. The rest of the show went well and it was incredible having Billy Blomquist back with us!!! The audience was even more vocal than Friday night. I felt sorry for them because, even though we were marching in the sun, they were sitting and facing the sun! We went into the closer, hit the wheels and the company front, then blew them away with the re-entry! By 6:20pm it was all over! I went back to the car and changed out of my uniform and then went back inside to watch the rest of the show. It was great running into former RA’s this weekend, including Rich Gortowski, Bob Nehmer, Jim & Suzie Mikowski, Pat Castor, and Gene VandenBosch. (Sorry about any misspellings or anyone I left out.) Dave and I headed back to the motel after the show and then drove home Monday morning. I only have a few days to recover and catch up at work and then head north again. This coming weekend is our home show! Come on out and say hi!!!

For the White & Blue!

Nancy


JUNE CAMP NOTES
By Nancy Bender

Well, this was the final weekend camp before the start of the drum corps season. Our location this month was the stadium at Mooseheart, IL. This is a really nice venue with a pretty decent field, as well as a field house. Dave and I arrived just before 10:30am as the corps was nearing the end of their first break. It was sunny, hot, and humid! We reviewed the drill from the end of “Tru’s Blues” through the closer, which we took a few sets at a time to lock it in. I think the audience is going to go nuts when they see this show! At 1:30 they gave us an hour and a half break for lunch. This was designed to keep us out of the major heat of the day. There were plenty of places to eat nearby. It was nice to get out of the sun for a while. We drove over to the motel and checked in, then headed back to the stadium. For the first block after lunch the horns were under some trees going through warm-ups, then practicing the music. After about an hour we headed for the starting line. We practiced marching and playing the opener, again a few pages at a time to coordinate the feet, music, pulse, and drill. Around 4:45pm they gave us a water break and that’s when we noticed some storm clouds moving in. Within five minutes they told us to gather up all of our stuff and head for the field house. By 5pm we were having one heck of a thunderstorm with very heavy rain! We set up in one of our concert formations in the field house and worked on “Tru’s Blues”. There was absolutely no air in the field house! We stood in our own puddles and played. After about 45 minutes the storms had moved on and we headed back out onto the field. The air was actually a little cooler! We drilled for another hour and a half and were let go at 7:30pm. Dave, Kos, Tony and I headed for the motel, washed up, got into some clean shirts, then headed out to find some dinner. We then went to the Moose Lodge in St. Charles for our annual bonfire/initiation. The actual ceremonies didn’t get underway until almost 10pm. We gathered in the circle of silence, contemplating what it means to us to be Royal Airs, thinking about the past, what we went through in previous years, and what we experienced during the day today. Then several people stepped forward and “testified” about what it was like in the 60’s and where we have come. This is where the rookies get an insight to the history of the corps. We also heard some good stories about the 60’s, particularly one about Kirkland!! It was a great time. Then it was time for the rookies to step forward. I won’t divulge what happens next, but the rookies are now Royal Airs. After the ceremonies wrapped up my group headed back to the motel. It was midnight, and we were all exhausted. We slept well.

Sunday morning found us back on the field at the stadium at 9am! We started with the closer and worked our way to the end. We were then taught the re-entry. WOW!! I love this concept! It wasn’t nearly as difficult to learn as I thought it was going to be. After a break the horns headed for one end zone and the drums went to the other end zone for warm-ups. After warming up the drums joined the horns for some ensemble work on “Tru’s Blues”, adding the last selection in that medley, “St. James Infirmary”. This thing really ROCKS!!! We also worked the music for the closer, “Our Love Affair”. We then went back out onto the field and ran the closer into the re-entry, while playing! I think the adrenaline gets to flowing pretty quickly in “Alexander’s”, because we seem to overshoot our spots. This is going to be even more difficult when the audience gets into it! Somehow, we have to channel that energy and use it in a positive way. The corps really wants this first show to be as clean as a show in late July. It’s great to see everyone so excited about doing this show. John Z. told us that we are ahead of where we were last year, but not to get ahead of ourselves. This is a process that has no shortcuts. We have to go through shows and practices before this thing really clicks. But I like the way it’s clicking right now!!!! We finished up around 3:15pm with post-camp announcements and the singing of the corps song. Then it was time to gather up our stuff, clean the field, and head for home. I was really tired driving home and kept moving around while I was driving to stay awake. Dave and I stopped in Bloomington for gas and dinner, and that woke me up. We pulled into my driveway at 8:45pm and Dave headed home from there. I didn’t stay up very long before I was sound asleep, marching the show in my dreams. Monday was a hard day, and all I could think about was drum corps! The excitement level is really rising in anticipation for Friday night in Oswego! I know from going through this before that it will be over in a flash. Savor every second!

For the White & Blue,

Nancy


MAY CAMP NOTES
By Nancy Bender

I knew we would eventually pay for the beautiful weather we had for last month’s camp. Dave and I left St. Louis at 5:30am in the rain. We were in and out of rain until we got north of Bloomington, then we could see the clearing line moving in from west to east. We arrived at the wonderful astro-turf field around 10:20am. The corps was reviewing the drill we learned last month. The sun came out and it was actually quite pleasant, even though the wind was blowing around 15 mph. We took a lunch break at 12:30, just in time for a soccer game which was scheduled to be played on our field. We came back at 1:30 and the game ended shortly after that. We began work on learning the rest of the drill. By now the clouds had moved back in, it was colder, and the wind was gusting at 35-40 mph!!! At one point in the drill I turned into the wind and at the end of the 16 counts I was a step and a half behind where I should have been. This was brutal!!! But the RA’s persevered and we learned the drill for most of the rest of the show by 6pm. The audience is going to go nuts when they see our closing drill!! All we have left to learn is the re-entry. Look out!! We had a dinner break from 6:00 until 7:30. Dave, Kos, and I went to our favorite Chinese place, only to realize that they don’t do the buffet for dinner. We went ahead and ordered off the menu. We were the only ones in the restaurant and it was really nice to sit and relax for a while. Of course, the only problem with sitting for a while is trying to get up again! We had just enough time to check in at the motel and then it was on to Fenton High School for horn practice. You could tell that marching in the wind all day had really taken its toll on us. There just was not much energy in that band room Saturday night. We worked on warm-ups for about 15-20 minutes, then reviewed our closer. It seemed like I had just really gotten warmed up when it was time to call it a day – a very LONG day! We sang our corps song and headed either to the VFW Post or to the motel. You know where I went! My right knee was so stiff and swollen I could barely make it out to the car. Back to the motel room, ice down the knees, then, something I highly recommend, Icy Hot patches! These things really work! I had no trouble falling asleep.

Sunday morning we were back on the “mine field” at Fenton High School. Drill started at 9am. It took me about 15 minutes to loosen up, but then it wasn’t too bad. At least we weren’t drilling in hurricane-force winds! It was mostly cloudy and cool, but not too bad. We reviewed all of the drill we learned yesterday. In only two weekends we have learned all of the drill for the show, except for the re-entry, which shouldn’t be too difficult to learn next month. I think it’s really helping to be able to download the drill on our computers and watch it. We already have a pretty good idea of where we are supposed to be going. It also helps that our practice fields this year have been laid out so well – a huge THANK YOU to the mellophone section!!! We drilled until about 10:30 and then had horn warm-ups for about 20 minutes. We then set in a concert formation and ran through all of our show tunes. The corps was scheduled to perform a concert at 3pm in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. We practiced until noon, then were released to get some lunch and meet for the concert. Dave and I left at this point and headed south, where the temperature was a good 15-20 degrees warmer! From what I understand, the concert went very well! There was no actual “event”, but the RA were well received by those who happened to be in the park at that time. It’s also very important for us to play in front of an audience as often as possible. It’s the only way to get better! We have four more weeks to get our music MEMORIZED and to work on the drill and musical breaks. This is a fantastic show and I think the crowds are going to love it! I’m still amazed at how fast camp seems to go, although I will admit to glancing at my watch late in the day on Saturday. I was out cutting grass last evening and found myself doing eight to fives across my front yard! It’s okay, the neighbors already think I’m a little strange! I’d like to give a shout out to my awesome drill squad Ray and Mike. You guys are awesome! Also, the Magnificent Thirds continue to astound me! They have worked so hard this year and I can really tell a difference in their playing, as well as the entire horn line! We have come so far from 2002 when it was a major accomplishment to just get the fingerings correct. We are now musicians! We play with feeling, dynamics, and phrasing! Keep up the good work! See you all next month!

For the White & Blue,

Nancy


APRIL CAMP NOTES
By Nancy Bender

Our camp this month was the weekend of April 16-17 in Bensenville, IL. Instead of being at the high school, we spent the day Saturday on an ASTRO-TURF field in a nearby park!!! Camp started at 9am. Dave and I left St. Louis at 5:30am and made a brief stop in Springfield to pick up Dr. Bob. We all arrived at camp around 10:40am. The corps was taking a break and we were concerned about how much drill we missed. Something new this year is the capability of all members to download the drill for any particular song, and then print out their drill coordinates. This way we have a general idea of what we are supposed to do. It should also save time in teaching the drill. It must work because we learned 30 pages of drill on Saturday! The corps had only made it through the first 10 or 11 pages of drill and after the break we picked it up right where they left off. We learned the rest of the opener up to the company front, then went back to the starting line and ran it from there. This was a little rough because there were several people who were late. But after a few times through, we all were on the same page, so to speak. We were blessed with a truly beautiful day for the middle of April; blue skies, light wind, and temperatures in the low to mid 70’s. At 12:30 they sent us to lunch. A bunch of us ended up back at the Chinese buffet. Needless to say, the bowl of cereal I had at 5am had worn off hours ago! Drill practice started up again at 1:30 and we worked the last part of the opener leading up to the company front and on to the end. This is a really cool drill! I like the idea that the sopranos and baritones are interspersed in the front. We then moved on to the drum solo after the opener. We made it to almost the last page, but we had to be off the field and have it cleaned up by 5pm for a soccer game. We gathered around and the instructors told us that we accomplished a lot today and we would review and clean tomorrow. We were released for dinner at 5:00 with instructions to meet at Fenton High School for sectionals at 6:30. Since most of my group was still full from lunch, we went to McDonalds and each had a salad! This left us plenty of time to go check in at the motel and have 30 minutes to freshen up and stretch out before heading back to the school. I had plenty of layers of sun block, dirt, and sweat on my arms and face. At least this is the first drill camp in three years that I didn’t get sunburned! I must be learning! At 6:30 the horns met in the band room at Fenton High. There was no air conditioning and the room was hot and stuffy. We started our warm-ups and after a while the rifles and guard came in with an industrial-strength fan. We worked on “Stars & Stripes”, putting the musical touches on the piece and working for good balance and blend. I love this horn line!!! We then received the music for our closer, “Our Love Affair” from the movie, “An Affair to Remember”. I know this is a good arrangement because I heard people humming it on their way out to their cars later on. We also have another sweet solo by Billy Blomquist, and later a duet with Don Kosmal. And, surprise of all surprises, the euphoniums (euphoni?) have the melody!!!! We also had some “guests” sitting in with the horn line. Gary Bakker and Jim Linley sat in with the sopranos so that they could play with RA in Madison the following week. Jim Cunningham and Ken Norman were sitting in on baritone as well. We finished up around 9pm and dispersed. Jackie was not at camp, having just had surgery on Friday morning on her neck. We all were sending her our thoughts and prayers. I headed for my motel room and was asleep within 30 minutes!

Sunday started at 9am on the practice soccer field at Fenton High School. That’s right, the field that looks like it was used for bombing practice! I made sure that I got there early to stretch out. Paul called us together on the field to outline the plans for the day. After that, Tony Laskowski announced to the corps that he had received a phone call from Jackie saying that they were releasing her from the hospital that morning, so he was on his way to pick her up. We started drill practice with the drum solo and worked up to where we left off yesterday, then learned the last couple of pages. After we ran this several times, we went back and reviewed the drill from the starting line in blocks, first singing our parts, then playing. It was so awesome that we were able to drill and play this early in the season! You can really feel the excitement in the corps. About half-way through our rehearsal, here comes Jackie, in a cervical collar, being helped up the hill to the field!!!! Wow, what a trooper!! We continued to work the drill in blocks, first singing then playing. We finally did a full run-through of the opener while playing! I can’t wait to get this show in front of an audience! They are going to go absolutely nuts! We drilled till 2:30pm, then Paul and John had to leave to catch their flight back to California. The rest of us gathered around, sang the corps song, then cleaned up the field and packed our cars. This was such an incredible weekend! I can’t wait for the May camp to finish the drill and get the ending to the first concert piece “Tru’s Blues”. We had a full guard at camp, 16 flags and 7 rifles! Over 65 horns (that sound like 100). The percussion is coming along, though we could always use some more! Our new members this month were Ray “Stoney” Szlagowski, Brad Hecker, Carl Fiocca, Katherine Paulson, and Portia Harper’s brother, Mike. We had many visitors this weekend including Gerry Paull, Tom Day, Tommy DiPrima, Terri Golden, Jim Schehr, Dave Borck, and Pam (Zimny) Bialas and family. The excitement is building! This year should a great year for the RA! We have a great musical show and a drill to support it. Everybody is working hard and taking responsibility for knowing their music and their drill. Let’s keep this up. Oswego won’t know what hit them!

For the White & Blue,

Nancy


MARCH CAMP NOTES
By Nancy Bender

The excitement continues! Our camp this month was the weekend of March 19-20. Due to unforeseen scheduling conflicts we moved our location to Wood Dale Junior High, a short 10 minutes from Fenton High School. We only had a small portion of the school available to us and everybody brought their own stands. Dave and I arrived just after 10:30. The horns were set up on the stage in the auditorium and were being sent on their first break of the morning. After the break the horns split into individual sections. Since there was not much space to work, a lot of us ended up outside for our sectional. We were lucky in that the sun was out and it was about 52 degrees. We worked on the opener for about 45 minutes, then headed back to the stage. I really liked the acoustics in this auditorium!! We worked some more on the opener and then John handed out an abbreviated version of “Alexander’s” that we will play after the closer. It has a really cool ending and I think the audience is just going to eat it up! After that we had a short break, and then Paul gave a demonstration of how to download our drill on our computers. We can print out our coordinate sheets and start to learn the drill before coming to camp, and we can also watch the drill for any of the songs. This should save a lot of time once we get outside! We were sent to our meal break at 1:30 with instructions to be back in two hours. I can’t decide if I like the two-hour break. It does give us time to eat, check in to the motel, and maybe even stretch out for 20 minutes. On the other hand, if I stop moving for too long it’s hard to get going again. The weather had made a drastic change since we were outside for sectionals! It was cloudy, foggy, drizzly, and much colder! My gang ended up at a small Chinese place near the school. We then headed for the motel and had about 30 minutes before we had to leave to make it back to camp. We met on the stage and were told that since the gym was too small for the whole corps to drill, we split into sectionals and John & Paul came and got one section at a time to march in the gym while playing the opener. We worked on moving our feet at exactly the same time as the tempo of the opener. Since we didn’t have to worry about where our “spot” was, this was fairly easy. This early work of coordinating feet and music should pay off when we move drill outdoors. It is also forcing us to MEMORIZE the music a little sooner than some of us normally do. After about an hour and a half, we reconvened at the check-in tables for some birthday greetings for the month of March. Then it was back on stage, work the rest of the music, and do full ensemble. We had to be out of the school by 9pm so we started shutting down by 8:40. Most of the corps ended up at the VFW Post for some socializing. I had been up since 3:45am, so I went right to my room and crashed!

Sunday found us back at our usual location, Fenton High School. Paul has the entire opening drill written and we expected that we would learn it today. However, we couldn’t use the field house and the gym isn’t big enough. The horns started out in the band room with Roderick leading us through warm-ups. Then John came in and filled us in on trying to get someplace to drill. In the meantime, the horns were sent to sectionals to work on memorizing the opener so that we could play it as we drilled. I’ve got to tell you that this horn line is absolutely amazing! We have filled out the baritone section, have a huge mello section, and have redistributed the strength in our soprano section so that the harmonies are really coming through! And what about that contra line?!!!! It seems that once we start playing everybody just keeps getting more and more excited. I heard a lot of people talking this weekend about how they can’t wait to play this music in front of a crowd. After sectionals we went back to the band room and played all of our music. When we finish playing everybody wants to play again! At 1pm we all went in the gym and set up in a block formation and marched back and forth across the gym while playing “Stars & Stripes”. This is so cool!!! Then John thought he would throw us off by having us play “Alexander’s”, but we were able to play that as well! We drilled until 1:30 and then were given a break before setting up in the gym for full ensemble. It was about this time that Dave and I decided to get a head start on the drive home, so we missed full ensemble. I’m sure it was exciting, though! The drum line is crazy this year and I think we will have one of the finest shows this summer! The color guard and rifles are working their you-know-whats off! I know so many people in the corps who don’t want to wait another month to do this again. So far, these weekends just fly by and it seems like I just got there when it’s time to leave. Hopefully, next month we will have someplace big enough for us to learn drill. Keep memorizing the music, as well as the dynamics and articulations! This will make it a lot more fun when we learn our drill, and will allow us to concentrate on the drill. The excitement level is growing. Look out, Oswego! (only 3 more months!)

For the White & Blue,

Nancy


FEBRUARY CAMP NOTES
By Nancy Bender

Dave and I left St. Louis at 5:30AM!!! I think this is the worse part of camp! We pulled in at Fenton High School in Bensenville at 10:30, just in time for the horn line’s first morning break. Sorry, guys. After checking in, paying dues, and greeting everybody I hadn’t seen since last camp, it was time to get down to some serious work. The horns worked most of the morning on our opener, “Stars & Stripes”. I think that every time we play this piece we get more excited! Let’s just say this is NOT your father’s Stars & Stripes! But then, leave it to the Royal Airs to pull something out of the bag that will leave the audience blind with excitement. It’s only February and we are already starting to put the little nuances on the music. This thing will rock! After we worked on the opener, we were handed one of our concert pieces, “Tru’s Blues”. It starts with “Birth of the Blues” and makes a nifty transition into “I Got a Right to Sing the Blues”. We only had page one to work on this camp, but given how well this went, I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of it next month! At 1:30 we were given a two-hour meal break. My group, at the request of one individual, ended up at Portillo’s instead of our usual Chinese place. Actually, a lot of Royal Airs ended up there as well. Since we had so much time for lunch, Dave and I went to the motel, checked in, and still had about 20 minutes to “power nap” before heading back to camp. The afternoon block began at 3:30 with an hour and a half of drill. We were supposed to be in the field house, but there were basketball games going on until 6PM, so we headed for the gym. The corps was split into two sections, with one section working block drill with Roderick and the other section working with Paul. This section basically had an entire block of drill taught. It’s really cool and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this in our opening drill! After about 45 minutes the instructors changed groups, so we all had the opportunity to work on what the other group was doing. Drill ended at 5PM with the horns going back into the band room. We were honored to have Terry Warburton with us this weekend (Warburton mouthpieces). He gave a 30-minute talk on how to find the right mouthpiece for your specific needs. Besides being a fount of knowledge, Terry is also an all-around good guy who was with us all weekend. After his presentation the horns broke down into smaller sections to work on “Tru’s Blues”. After about an hour we got back together and ran “Stars & Stripes” to prepare for full ensemble. Unfortunately, this full ensemble was in the gym. Very bad acoustics! But one thing we have learned over the last three years together is to be flexible. In spite of the less than ideal conditions full ensemble went pretty well. We sang the corps song and were dismissed for the night at 8:30pm! Many folks from the corps went to the VFW Post for after-camp “refreshments”. However, I had been up since 4am and headed right for my room!

Sunday morning we awoke to find that it had snowed overnight. Not a bad snow, mostly on the grass, trees, and cars. I packed, cleaned off the car, and headed for breakfast with Dave, Tony and Kos. We were joined by two new members to the RA family, both from St. Louis! Rodney Williams will be playing mellophone and George Farrel will join the soprano section. We all made it to camp by the 9am start time and the horns went immediately into warm-ups. After that it was right to work on our show music. We broke into individual sections to work “Tru’s Blues”. The sopranos had a lot of fun working the transition. Hmm, what’s that tune? The rest of the horns returned and we worked the rest of the morning on this piece. Dave and I had talked about leaving at 1:30 to get a jump on that five-hour drive, but full ensemble was scheduled to start at 1:30, so we decided to stick around. Once again we didn’t have access to the field house, so we set up on the stage in the auditorium, with the drums on the floor in front of the stage. I heard several of the “vets” talk about how this reminded them of the Madison Scouts Open House in 2002. I think it cranked us up just a bit. The horns started with “Ave Maria”, then the full ensemble worked sections on “Stars & Stripes”. I can’t wait to play this on the field in front of the audience! This piece is so exciting that the crowd will be on their feet the whole time! A little after 2pm Dave looked to see if I was ready to leave, but I told him we could wait a little longer. The corps played “God Bless the Child”, then the horns played what we had of “Tru’s Blues”. At 2:30 John and Paul had to leave to catch their flight, so Dave and I also left at this time. Fortunately the temperatures had warmed up so that our drive was not too bad. We pulled in to St. Louis at 7:45pm, happy to be home, but sad that camp was over. I don’t know what it is this year, but it seems like these weekends just fly! Next month we should start getting our drill assignments and adding that to the music. Those of you who may be wondering whether or not to do another season should come on out to camp in March. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well the camps are run and how productive the weekends are! I know that this horn line is going to be one of the best on the field this summer. And that’s an understatement. The drum line has some great arrangers and instructors and we are looking forward to seeing what kind of tricks they pull out of the bag. The rifles are as committed as ever in performing classic rifle moves and the flags are working harder than I can remember seeing before. This is one dedicated group of people, committed to putting the best show on the field this summer. You know, anybody can spend the summer sitting around a pool. Not everybody can spend the summer thrilling crowds and being thrilled right back. What are YOU doing this summer?

For the White & Blue,

Nancy

PS: Goodnight, Mr. Sandman, wherever you are!


JANUARY CAMP NOTES
By Nancy Bender

Our camp this month was the weekend of Jan. 15-16.  We moved the location to Fenton High School in Bensenville, which provides a larger space for indoor drill.  Camp started at 10am in the theater for a corps meeting.  The schedule for the day was outlined, then the new instructors/arrangers for the drum line were introduced, Cosmo "Gus"  Barbaro and Tom Roe.  These guys are already making a difference in the drum line!  Then Tommy got up and gave a very inspirational speech.  This is the point that Dave and I walked in.  Since we moved camp from Oswego to Bensenville, it adds almost 45 minutes to our drive time.  At 11:00 we were sent to sectionals.  The horn line had the band room, I believe the drum line had the choir room, and the flags and rifles had a practice gym.  This is a really nice school with lots of places for practice.  Roderic handed out a new set of warm-up exercises and we spent about 25 minutes going through them.  They really are quite effective and I plan on incorporating them into my own warm-ups.  Then we played through “Rainy Day”.  A few of us moved around to balance out the sections.  We worked quite a bit on “God Bless the Child”, doing a lot of fine tuning and balancing.  I do believe this horn line will be playing with a lot more finesse  this year!  John Z. then handed out our opener, “Stars & Stripes”.  They rhythms looked pretty hairy.  We broke up into smaller sections to work on this piece.  I know that the 3rd sopranos spent the entire time working one measure at a time.  By the time we rejoined the rest of the horns, we pretty much had the first half of the piece learned.  We worked a little more of it in full horn ensemble and finally were kicked loose for “lunch” at 2:30pm.  They decided to give us just one meal break and make it for 2 hours.  Well, where else would my group go but the Chinese Buffett????  Would you believe we sat there the entire time talking drum corps?  This is about the time my eyes started slamming shut.  I had to get up at 4:30am in order to be at Dave’s by 6am.  I fought off the sleepies and we headed back to the school.  We were sent directly to the field house for drill.  The corps was divided into three equal groups.  One group went to one end of the field house with Kirt to practice block drill.  The second group stayed in the middle with Paul and practiced marching forward with a good roll step.  The third group went with Roderic to the other end and practiced the proper positions for attention, dress right, left, and center, how to hold the horns, etc.  After 30 minutes the groups rotated to another instructor.  Then in another 30 minutes we rotated again.  This was a really efficient way to handle drill and cover a lot of things at one time.  We finished this block at 6pm and went back to the band room.  We worked some more on “God Bless” and “Stars & Stripes”.  And how awesome was it to have Gene Vandenbosch sitting in with the 2nd sopranos?  We headed back to the field house for full ensemble at 8pm.  We set the arc and the horns played “Ave Maria”.  Then the horns and drums played “God Bless”, with the drums playing a new arrangement.  It was really cookin!!!!!  We finished up just before 9pm, had end-of-day announcements, then sang the corps song with more vigor than I have heard in the three years that I’ve marched with this corps!  Dave dropped me at the motel and he and Kos and Tony headed for the VFW Post for “refreshments.”  I was asleep by 10:30pm!!!!!

 Sunday morning we started at 9am, again in the band room with a long warm-up session.  We were then sent back to sectionals to finish learning the opener.  I have to tell you, I worked with the 3rd sopranos and they are an incredible group.  We knuckled down and learned the rest of the opener, then went back and played it from the beginning.  I think we have a very good start on this piece, and all in one weekend!  After about an hour we headed back to the band room and the entire horn line worked on the last half of the opener.  The closer we got to the end, the more excited the horns became!  It’s amazing how our attitudes changed as we learned this piece.  With every measure we got down, the excitement level grew.  We have the notes and rhythms down.  Now we need to make music.  That will be the goal next month.  We then worked on “Chicago Fanfare” so that we could do it with the drums in full ensemble.  At 1:00 we went to the field house and set up in concert formation.  The horns played “Ave Maria”, then the horns and drums played “God Bless”.  It was really rocking!  Then the drums played an exercise they had worked on.  I can already hear a difference in this drum line.  The flags performed a routine by themselves, then a routine with the rifles.  WOW!!!!!  Then the rifles did a routine on their own – dangerous moves!  (so that’s where all those bruises came from)  Then the horn line played through “Chicago”.  We met back in the band room for the end-of-camp meeting.  We sang the corps song, again with much more spirit than previously, and then it was time to say good-bye.  This weekend went by so fast!!  We were challenged almost every minute of camp.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next month!  This season is going to be off the charts!  The audience will be on their feet with the opener and will never have a chance to sit down until we march off the field.  Hang on to this excitement.  Practice hard, and not just the music.  Practice holding your horn properly.  Stand at attention with your horn while you’re watching TV.  Those muscles will strengthen in no time!  Walk tall, be proud. We ARE the Royal Airs!

 For the White & Blue,

 Nancy