Statewide, teens and young adults have dropped the remote and picked up an instrument to become a part of the Academy Drum and Bugle Corps.
Mark Richardson, executive director of Arizona Academy of the Performing Arts, founded the corps with several other volunteers in 2001, creating a musical outlet for young adults in the city of Phoenix and all over Arizona, according to the organization’s website.
In 2006, the corps, which is the official drum and bugle corps of Tempe, began touring nationally and competing in the world championship. Since then, the organization has grown, with 145 members this year, Richardson said.
The program includes brass and percussion instruments as well as color guard performers. Though the corps only tours during the summer, the audition process begins in early December, with practices starting in January, according to the website.
Brian Huft, 16, of Ahwatukee Foothills is a member of the corps and plays the euphonium, a brass instrument similar to a tuba, he said. The average age of members is between 18 and 21, but Brian and some other high school students, including two others from Desert Vista and one from Mountain Pointe, also made the cut.
Brian, who used to play the trombone in the Desert Vista High School marching band, said the corps is much harder. The members have been practicing, usually outside, nearly every day since the beginning of June, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., with only two one-hour breaks for lunch and dinner.
“The kids are asked to work harder than they’ve ever worked before, physically, emotionally and mentally,” Richardson said. “We’re asking them to rehearse in the uncomfortable heat in the Arizona desert all day long with only two breaks.”
Brian said the corps has marching practices in the morning, more music-oriented practices in the afternoon, and at night, the whole group comes together, including the color guard.
“We’ve learned the entire show and are just perfecting it pretty much,” he said.
Though the corps definitely works in hopes of a world championship title, Richardson said the effort is the main prize.
“It teaches teamwork and the idea that you’re only as strong as your weakest member, which is different than a lot of team sports,” he said. “There’s no bench, everybody out on the field has to pull their weight.”
Richardson said it is also great for the members physically. All of the members have gained muscle and gotten in better shape as a result of the intense training.
“Their physical appearances change,” he said. “A couple of kids have already lost about 40 pounds.”
Brian said the corps, though obviously helping him improve as a musician, also improved his leadership skills.
“They get more mature … they have a better awareness of those around them,” Richardson said. “They’ve got a work ethic like none other.”
Of course, the competition is also important to the Academy Drum and Bugle Corps. The group went on a regional tour in California in late June and early July, but the national tour that ends at the Drum Corps International Championship begins Friday, July 16, Richardson said.
The tour includes 22 competitions and 12,000 miles of travel with stops at places such as Texas, Florida and New York before ending at the championship in Indianapolis on Aug. 12, according to the website.
The group will head off to California on Friday, but come back to the Valley for its last Arizona show on Sunday, July 18, before leaving for the rest of the summer, Richardson said.
The corps will participate in the 10th anniversary presentation of the Southwest Corps Connection at Dobson High School in Mesa at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. Six other bands from Arizona, California and Washington will join the Academy in the performance.
Tickets are available at www.arizonaacademy.org, (480) 730-5584 or can be purchased at the door. The cost is between $18 and $25.
Jolie McCullough is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.