Baylor Students Shine from Marching Fields Across the Nation
by Liesbeth Powers, student newswriter
WACO, Texas (August 3, 2018) – A select number of Baylor University students have been marching their way through the summer as part of Drum Corps International (DCI), a drum and bugle corps made up of more than 5,000 members annually. Each corps creates a themed show that incorporates music, visuals and marching techniques.
Craig Adams, a senior instrumental music major in the Baylor School of Music from San Antonio, Texas, is marching in DCI for the first time with the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps as lead mellophone player and soloist, as well as bass singer in the choir at the beginning of the show. Adams is also a member of Baylor’s 300-member Golden Wave Marching Band, the largest student musical organization and an icon of campus tradition for more than 100 years.
“I wanted to march drum corps, specifically with the Boston Crusaders, because it is a great opportunity to perform and compete at a world-class level and because I receive incredible instruction that I can apply as I finish my degree at Baylor and enter the teaching field,” Adams said.
The Crusaders’ show, titled “SOS,” draws from well known visuals like “Lord of the Flies,” “Cast Away” and “Lost.” The ensemble wakes up stranded on an uninhabited island and goes through the stages of human vs. environment, human vs. human and human vs. self, Adams said.
“I really love the ballad where we play 'Amazing Grace' because the performers have the opportunity to convey such deep emotion and longing to be saved to the audience and the music is absolutely captivating,” Adams said.
'A Baylor Bear in everything that I do'
Near and far from campus, Adams represents Baylor every day he marches. Every day of rehearsal, he wears a Baylor hat, and after every show he puts on a Baylor University Golden Wave Band shirt.
“Everyone in my corps knows where I go to school, and it’s something that I’m proud of because I get to be their understanding of what Baylor is,” Adams said. “I have the opportunity to ‘fling my green and gold afar’ every day, and I try to represent Baylor and what it means to me to be a Baylor Bear in everything that I do.”
For Daniel Pennington, an incoming Baylor freshman from Frisco, Texas, who plans to study film, this will be his second year being part of a DCI color guard and his first time marching with the Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps. The color guard is non-musical section that adds a large portion of visual effects to a show through flag twirling and other choreography.
Pennington previously performed with the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps but found it easy to get involved with the Blue Stars because he knew many of the staff and other members.
“I wanted to join to be a part of the highest level of the color guard activity and genuinely want to be the best that I can be at what I am doing,” Pennington said.
Building a show
The Stars’ show is titled “The Once and Future Carpenter” and illustrates building, being industrious and working together. The show incorporates a variety of tools and building materials, including 2x4s, extension cords and power tools. Musically, Pennington is a fan of the third movement, which is a jazzy ballad, but ultimately prefers a portion of his spinning choreography.
“When it comes to spinning, one of my favorite parts of the show is the second movement,” Pennington said. “I’m on the rifle line with all my friends, and we are having a blast and spinning our show.”
Brady Diffee, a senior instrumental music major in the Baylor School of Music from Dallas, Texas, is marching for DCI for the first time as a mellophone player with the Blue Stars. After several years of marching with the Golden Wave Band and following DCI, he was convinced to audition by a friend.
“I always loved the idea of joining a drum corps and being a member of a performing ensemble of such high caliber,” Diffee said. “When I came to Baylor, I started hearing about the Blue Stars and knew several students, primarily in the School of Music, who were at one point involved with the Blue Stars as members.”
Jon Carr, who received a bachelor of arts in communication degree in May, serves a different facet of the Blue Stars. As part of his second year as a rehearsal assistant, he takes on various tasks for the team and often is seen carrying around a large speaker attached to a metronome during practices.
“I love being with the Blue Stars because I am able to meet a lot of people that I wouldn't normally get to meet and make great friends that last a lifetime,” Carr said. “I don't perform with the corps, but I do feel a ton of pride every time the corps performs.”
Performing at the highest level
With nearly 80 days of marching and more than 25 performances this summer, there have been some challenging moments for marchers, especially when it comes to mental fortitude, Adams said.
“When it’s hot outside and you’ve been rehearsing for hours somewhere in Missouri, what separates the good from the elite is the ability to stay mentally engaged and to continue to perform at the highest level,” Adams said.
Regardless of these challenges, this summer gave Adams a chance to better understand the power of positive thinking and how it can affect your achievements.
“The more that you can visualize yourself reaching that next level and setting higher standards for yourself, the easier it will be to actually achieve that reality,” Adams said. “It’s amazing how the ‘impossible’ can literally be within your arms’ reach, and how you simply need to stretch out of your comfort zone and grab it.”
Both Pennington and Diffee learned a similar lesson from long days in the sun. Even with the physical challenges, the mental game was harder to play, Diffee said.
“Before drum corps, I was comfortable in my routine,” Diffee said. “There was a well-roundedness about the things I invested my time in. When I left for spring training back in May, I sacrificed that routine for a new unpredictable one that was filled with long days of rehearsal and less communication with those I was close to.”
Creating something special
Pennington found patience to be a key part of staying positive this summer.
“Patience in the face of anger and frustration is important,” Pennington said. “It’s such a different environment, and you have to carry on through tough days no matter the conditions, time or place.”
As the corps near the end of the season and master the technical portion of their shows, they focus more and more on the emotional connection with the audience, Diffee said.
“We tend to create something really special when there’s emotionally charged performance happening and that’s something I’d really love to see as we get closer to the end of the season,” Diffee said. “We are at a point where we can achieve the technical and mechanical elements of our show. The next level is buying in emotionally for one another, and then the crowd will too.”
Both corps placed within the top 10 at the Southwestern Championship in San Antonio, Texas, on July 21 and will continue to march until the DCI World Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 9.
Light that shines
After three years of performing in a less competitive marching environment, marching with DCI was an experience like he had never had before, Diffee said.
“Both the Baylor Bands and the Blue Stars have a culture of excellence, but the culture otherwise is very different,” Diffee said. “To say the least, it was an adjustment when I moved in for spring training after my previous semester in Waco. There was a period of adapting to a different normal, but who I am remains the same and my relationship with Christ is steadfast.”
Adams is thankful for his time with the drum corps and for the musical instruction he received from his time at Baylor.
“I am performing in one of the most elite marching ensembles in the world, and it’s in great part due to the professors and musicians I work with every day at Baylor University,” Adams said. “Performing with the Boston Crusaders also makes me appreciate the light that Baylor has been in my life, and the light it has instilled in me that shines every time I step onto the turf to perform.”
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.