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Drum corps: A state of mind

Madison Mathews • Jun 13, 2012 at 9:48 PM

By this point in the season, the 150 members of the Spirit of Atlanta Drum & Bugle Corps are a well-oiled machine, marching to the same beat as they prepare for the 2012 competition season.

But it takes more than talent to be able to hit all the right notes when it comes to being a part of one of the premier drum corps groups in the country.

Drum corps is a state of mind.

“You really have to be motivated to do it. It’s more of a mental game than anything. ... You just get out there on the field and you think, ‘I can do this. I’m not going to let anything get in the way of that. I don’t care how hot it is. I don’t care how windy it is, or if the flag goes flying five yard lines away. I’m going to do it.’ ” said Paige Weis, a second-year member of Spirit’s color guard and one of five members who hail from Science Hill High School.

Spirit will be wrapping up its two-week spring training session at Science Hill Friday with a special public performance of this year’s show — “Sin City,” an ode to Las Vegas that features such favorites as Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.”

Weis recently graduated from Science Hill, where she performed in the color guard for four years. She said it wasn’t until joining the ranks of the corps that she truly matured into the person she is today.

“Being here, I learned so much maturity than I ever learned in high school,” she said. “You also learn a lot of respect, because if you don’t know how to respect anyone then you’re going to have a lot of issues and so the whole idea of treat others how you want to be treated really plays a game in the corps,”

As the 150 brass, percussion and color guard members spend nearly every waking minute with each other for about three months straight, that lesson about respect is an important one.

But it’s also an easy lesson to put into practice since Spirit becomes a second family for the members.

“We live together, we have to trust each other, we have to work with each other and when we’re out on the field, we have to literally act like one person and do one big movement,” she said. “So, on and off the field, we have to be able to deal with each other, but it’s usually really easy because we get along. It’s just a lot of fun being with these people that work so hard for a common goal.”

Russell England, a rising senior at Science Hill, always wanted to be a part of a drum corps. That’s why he worked hard to make sure he could join this year.

“I’ve seen drum corps in the past, and it’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen or heard. I just wanted to be a part of it,” the brass section member said.

Being able to march alongside his “brothers and sisters” in Spirit also presented a personal challenge, since he has diabetes.

“So far, it’s been challenging, but I’ve been making through it,” he said.

The constant exercise he gets from 7 in the morning until 10 p.m. has helped him deal with the ailment.

Like Weis, England has embraced Spirit and has grown to love the family atmosphere and a regimented schedule that never gets boring.

“It’s hard, honestly, but being around your brothers and sisters makes it so easier because you feed off their energy,” he said. “It’s just fun to see that everything comes together in the end after you worked everyday for the past month.”

That’s a sentiment shared by nearly all of the members.

“Our primary job is to entertain the audience and to give them a great show, but what kids of all ages get when they come here is they learn a sense of personal discipline, they learn a high level of performance, and they learn that this is really a family of people that they have to rely on,” Spirit Executive Director Todd Snead said.

Friday’s performance at Science Hill’s Kermit Tipton Stadium will begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. All proceeds will benefit the Science Hill Band Boosters.

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