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Tournament of Drums

The Colts Drum & Bugle Corps from Dubuque, IA, hosts of the 2016 Tournament of Drums in Cedar Rapids.

This Friday marks the return of hundreds of passionate young performers from all over the country to Cedar Rapids’ Kingston Stadium. The tournament of drums promises an exciting night of pageantry and fun…but it doesn’t come without a lot of hard work.

Now in the middle of their national summer tour, members of Genesis Drum and Bugle Corps from Austin, Texas are still working to perfect their 12 minute performance of the marching arts. “I think Genesis is traveling 9,000 miles this summer to a number of different states to perform maybe two dozen or more shows,” says Steve Mickelson, a Tournament of Drums committee member.

Day in and day out there is very little, if any downtime says Eric Thompson, a percussion instructor for the Genesis and a native of Cedar Rapids. “Generally speaking, the corps gets up no later than 7:15 in the morning and rehearses until 9pm if we don’t have lights. If we have a stadium with lights we sometimes go to 10:30 or maybe 11.”

Maybe that’s why they call themselves drum corps “nuts” because life on the road, says horn player Cory Sullivan, is anything but easy. “So we might get four hours of sleep on a bus and then three hours’ sleep on a gym floor and then wake up and rehearse in the sun, go to a show, get on a bus and then do it all again the next day.”

As a result, these students ages 16 to 21 aren’t just getting their show in shape. Mickelson says, “There was actually a study done that showed that one of these members of a drum corps, every summer--every day, I should say--of the summer, burns as many calories as a runner would running a half a marathon.”

Keep in mind, this is not a paid gig. So why do the drummers, color guard and horn players sacrifice so much time and money? Music is just part of the answer, says Thompson. “What brings all of these people together the staff and the volunteers is a sole commitment to being a part of something larger than the individual.”

Jackson Goode has been playing horn for Genesis for three years. “We’re such a weird combination of people from all over the country that you wouldn’t normally meet. You get to experience so many different lifestyles and perspectives and ways of thinking. “I’ve learned so much from this activity. I think it’s one of the major contributing factors into who I am as a person now.”

And when it’s show time, Mickelson says these skillful, committed comrades leave it all on the field. “They really perform for the crowd...and often times the crowd ends up on their feet. It stirs emotions in people and it’s very entertaining.”

Genesis will compete against two California drum corps, one from Wisconsin and another from Dubuque at Friday’s Tournament of Drums. We have ticket information HERE.

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