My drum corps grandmas

by Stan Weaver, 1986 Sky Ryders

This article originally appeared in the December 2007 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 36, Number 15)

In my 25 years of being a fan of drum corps and an avid reader of Drum Corps World, I have heard many stories about how someone was first introduced to the activity. I thought I had just about heard them all until I met my “drum corps grandmas”.

While sitting in the stands before the Chattanooga, TN, show on July 29, 1999. I was typing on a palm pilot keyboard for the purpose of uploading the content to my Web site later. A couple of ladies sitting behind me asked what I was doing. After talking with them, I learned that this was their first-ever drum corps show and they were not at all sure what to expect.

When I asked how they came to be at the show, I got an answer that I was not ready for.
They were doing a favor for a sick friend. It turns out this friend responded when these ladies asked the rhetorical, “If there is anything we can do for you, just let us know” question.

His reply was, “Yes, please go to a drum corps show and come back and tell me all about it.”

He was a drum corps fan and was unable to attend any shows.

I had marched in a top 12 corps in the 1980s and had a head full of knowledge and they made the mistake of asking me their questions. They were “on assignment” to learn all they could and report back to their friend, and I was all too eager to provide the answers to their questions.

Though I don’t remember, I bet my answers were barely completed before the next corps was on the starting line.

Not known for turning down a friend or a chance to travel, Judy and Ilona made plans to travel to the next show in Chattanooga. The rest, as they say, is history. They have been hooked ever since and have been attending shows even though their friend finally succumbed to his illness.

They did come back and give him a full report. In fact, they told him, “You do not have to ask us to go to any more shows for you, because we have already decided that we are going to as many as we can!”

The story does not end there. We kept running into one another at show after show in the parking lot, at hotels, in the stands, all completely by accident. After awhile, we decided to plan on meeting at a show or two each year.

This year I was not able to make the shows with them, but ended up inviting them to my house to watch the Webcast of DCI Semifinals.

That 1999 night in the stands holds a special place in my heart and in their hearts as well. Judy, Ilona and I have remained friends thanks to the love of drum corps. We have watched our children and their grandchildren grow up over the years.

Both Ilona and Judy are grandmothers and since I am far away from family, I started calling them “my drum corps grandmas”. The name has stuck and now my family thinks of them as their “drum corps grandmothers as well”.

Judy’s has had three grandchildren march in Spirit, Alliance and the Corps Vets which gives her ample excuse to travel and attend even more shows. She has always been in their corner encouraging them to march each summer and seize the opportunities that youth provides before time forces them to be in the stands like us. She is now a great grandmother and has barely slowed down.

Ilona is just as much fun as Judy and they make friends wherever they go. I imagine she will be a great grandmother soon and who knows, they may introduce their great grandchildren to the activity.

Leave it to drum corps to begin new and lasting friendships while all age groups. It is truly an activity that we can all get excited about and once you catch the fever, it just may never go away!