by Mike Ferlazzo
This article was originally published in the November 2010 edition of Drum Corps World.
If Dan Potter’s life is following the path of Phantom Regiment’s “Into the Light” program about the life cycle, he would probably find himself somewhere in the ballad’s contemplative mid-life segment. And Potter, host of Drum Corps International’s popular “Field Pass” podcast and celebrated public address announcer at top performance arts events, is hearing his life’s true calling, just like Phantom members heard the flugelhorn soloist in the distance.
That’s why the award-winning radio broadcaster left his position as news director and assistant program director for AM 740 and FM 102.3 NewsTalk KRMG in Tulsa, OK, at the end of August in a bit of a leap of faith.
He knew where he was headed, first to marry his fiancé, Kim Lucas, and to move back to Ft. Worth, TX, to be closer to their families; and then, to start his own broadcast-influenced business. But what that business will be, exactly, is still taking shape.
“This much is certain. It will be a two-pronged business,” Potter said in an Indianapolis interview during DCI World Championship week. “One half of it will focus on pageantry arts and the other half will focus on food.”
This summer, in addition to his radio and DCI voice work, Potter launched a live-event, radio cooking show in Tulsa called “OK Foodie.” He previously hosted shows in Dallas/Ft. Worth, so making the decision to build part of his business around culinary arts was, he says, an easy one.
“I’m going to continue to do “OK Foodie” in Tulsa,” Potter said. “I’m going to go up there once a week to tape it. Once I’m back in Texas, I’d also like to re-establish a similar show I did there a few years ago called “Taste of . . .”
Cooking with pageantry arts passion
The rest will be built around his pageantry arts passion.
“I’ve enjoyed some really great success with the ‘Field Pass’ and I would like to take that model and expand it out to cover as many forms of pageantry arts as time and resources will allow,” Potter said. “Certainly that would mean the fall competitive marching band season, the winter drum line and color guard season, and the drum corps season. But beyond that, the possibilities seem endless. For instance, there are hundreds of drum corps that have sprung up all over the world in recent years — mostly on the other side of the globe. So there’s plenty of it out there to be covered and I think I’m uniquely positioned to do that.
“Maybe one day that also means Military Tattoos in Scotland and Carnival in Rio!” he said.
“Anywhere there’s pageantry going on, I think there’s an audience that’s being underserved.”
Nothing’s off his business bulletin board, but the key will be figuring out how to make it work financially.
“I’m just looking for the right distribution platforms and the right partners,” he said. “I’d say content is the least of my worries. There will always be content and things to cover. It’s just how do you monetize that and how do you make a living out of it?”
Given his self-imposed uncertain financial future, it might have seemed hard for Potter to walk away from being an award-winning news broadcaster. That career found him doing such things as flying with both the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, and riding 50 yards in front of the presidential limo while reporting on the first inaugural parade of President George W. Bush. It sadly also put him up-close and personal with the tragic end of the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, TX, years ago.
But Potter didn’t look back when he made the decision to leave.
“It was surprisingly easy actually [to leave radio news] and maybe I’ll sound different in a year. A year of poverty will maybe change my mind, I don’t know,” he said. “Radio news isn’t what it was when I started to do it. And really, commercial radio news, unless it’s an all-news station, has trended toward serving an audience that listens to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Michael Savage and Neal Boortz — and targeting their news. I’m not saying its outright bias, but I’m saying they’re trying to serve their audience, which I understand. But it’s not for me anymore.
“I love telling stories with audio. I love theater of the mind. I love sound and working with sound. To me it’s like quilt work or woodworking or something. I’m in the zone when I’m playing around with audio and trying to tell a story. There’s not much room for that now in commercial radio.”
Contemplating his future life’s work
Potter now has time to contemplate what he really wants to do for the rest of his life. And what he’d like to do is continue to tell stories with audio, but on his own terms, something he barely had time to do over this past summer, which he calls “the busiest summer of my life.”
Between his radio news job, work for DCI, the new cooking show and preparing to move back to Texas, he was working almost around the clock. It was all he could do to grab a cold slice of pizza when he found time to eat while editing.
But even though his busy schedule found him out on the road with the DCI tour all but one weekend this summer, the former drum major for the Geneseo, IL, Knights wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“I say all the time I have the best job in drum corps — I really, really do,” Potter said. “I get to do a little bit of everything that I love. I get to do the stadium announcing. I get to do ‘Field Pass’ and tell stories with audio that I want to do. I get to do live events and Jumbotron interviews and get recognized. And all those things are just so cool, yet I really don’t have to do the hard work that instructors and designers and certainly the marching members do.
I just really get to revel in their end result. How cool is that? I view it as my mission to promote young performers pursuing excellence. And there’s a story in every performer.”
Potter says he’s in awe of the mastery and excellence that the performers display today, every time he sees a show. He plans to continue to tell their stories for a long time to come. In fact, they’ll even be a bigger part of his life’s work if plans fall into place.