A 56-year-old rookie joins the Hurricanes

by Bill Flaker, DCW staff

This past December I attended the organizational meeting of the Connecticut Hurricanes. I purposely went to bring in a prospective new guard member and to start the groundwork for my writing the history of the corps for the newest book that was just released by Drum Corps World.

I had been asked for a few years to think about joining by many members of the Hurricanes since I have been covering the corps for the past seven years as a staff writer for DCW. I also know many of them since I am a visual adjudicator for high school bands and indoor color guards that many members of the Hurricanes instruct. Little did I realize that while I was sitting down and listening to corps director Bernie Malesky give his information speech, my lovely wife of 35 years, Linda, was at the sign up table submitting my name and information! She has known that I always wanted to actively march in a drum corps but never had the opportunity or the courage to do so. Writing on the corps performances is one thing but to actually march with a world class unit is another!

I didn’t fight it too much after she told me that I was signed up. My first act was to discuss the membership with honor guard captain Rich Tardie and inform him that I was still committed to write again this year and in years to come. He readily agreed to work around my writing assignments and help in any way possible.

My first corps experience was to carry a side arm in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New Haven, CT, in front of 20,000 plus people. Needless to say the butterflies were running wild since I was actually marching with DCA’s top honor guard from last year and did not want to embarrass them. Things were going pretty good until we got to the area around Yale University and when I was the victim of a silly string attack, which left me covered from head to toe. I was proud of myself since I held my ground and kept on marching without breaking rank. What a way to start a dream!

First practice for the A- squad did not go well for me at all. Wrong steps, timing breakdowns and total frustration at myself for not getting it right were starting to get to me every time I messed up. The second practice went a little better as the feet were working good but now the body was facing the wrong way. Here I am a visual judge commenting in my cassette on what I see the groups that I adjudicate doing wrong, but I can’t seem to get the system of the honor guard down. It’s easy to comment on what I see, but when you actually go out there and do it, that’s a whole different ballgame.

Memorial Day weekend was when I really felt that I belonged in the corps. The street beat started and a yell went up from the corps and then I realized that I was actually doing this! We reached the reviewing stand at our third parade of the day and were announced as the Connecticut Hurricane Band while the corps was playing the trademark Magnificent Seven. Band! What band? We must have been a real good band because we were asked to go back to the town hall and perform again.

Did you ever hear of a corps member putting potato chips in their hat and forgetting about them? Well, Bill Lockwood, who carries the American flag, did just that. When he took off his hat after we were finished there were the chips attached to his forehead.

For the rest of this article and much more, pick up a copy of the August 31, 2003, issue of Drum Corps World, or subscribe by clicking on the link below.