Another Summer of a Lifetime

Final 2016 set during Semifinals in Lucas Oil – Indianapolis, Indiana

The fact still seems near-impossible to believe that it’s already been a week. A week since we ran chunks of any kind of the show; a week since our last set of 1&1 as a color guard; a week since we were dismissed from a rehearsal; a week since we sang Salvation for the last time in uniform. So many of the things we took for granted all summer — gone in the blink of an eye. I’m nowhere near new to the feeling of post-tour depression and readjusting to the “real world,” but there’s so many things that were different this year, it almost feels like a different kind of PTD.

For those of you who might not know what’s going on, I’ve just returned home after spending my third summer as a member of Spirit of Atlanta, a World Class Drum & Bugle Corps, in the color guard. Drum corps is a special activity — it’s marching music’s major league. The way it works starts in November/December: the audition process. Hundreds of kids flock to various groups around the country to put their skills to the test. They’re vying for their spot of 150 to spend their summer seeing the country through rehearsal time on football fields, spend more time sleeping on a bus than on their air mattress in some random school, waking up each morning wondering if the water will taste better than yesterday, and getting the chance to perform in front of tens of thousands of people throughout the course of the summer.

To start off, I got to live so many dreams I had given up on this summer. I was put on the weapon line after basically not auditioning for a spot, and I served the color guard as one of the three section leaders this year. After starting my drum corps career off as an alternate for the entire summer in 2013, and four summers later being considered a consistent member and holding a position of leadership was something I never thought would happen for me. I guess that just goes to show what can happen with time, practice, dedication, and passion. Not to toot my own horn, but there’s been a lot of all four of those things in my life the past nine months. Especially for this drum corps.

So on top of getting to live a dream (weapon line), and being honored with a position not many hold (section leader), I also was finally reunited with my best friends and a lot of my favorite people on this planet. One of the biggest things that keeps me at Spirit is the people I’ve met and connected with through the organization. And every year, saying goodbye to them is always the hardest part. In fact, one of the many things drum corps has taught me is that I don’t like goodbyes — I’d rather forego it and leave than stumble my way through realizing I don’t know when I’ll see the person I just spent my entire summer waking up next to. The magic of drum corps that binds you together with people worked its magic yet again on me, and I’m finding myself referencing to rain clouds as “Bertha,” yelling “DOG” very excitedly every time I see one while out and about, and saying “that’s pretty neat,” far more than I did before.

The last harsh reality that keeps hitting me in the face is I only have the chance to do this activity one more time. I’ve only got one Spring Training left to get through (one that hopefully won’t be six weeks long, as much as I love getting better… six weeks is a long time), one “first show” left, and one more finals week. Just to name a few.

This activity is so special because you only get to do it for so long. Unlike most other hobbies and passions in life that you can always pick up and revisit again, you’ll never get any moment of drum corps back. I’ll never run 0-23 of “Georgia” again — or spin through the ending impact with the 39 people who became my family in a matter of weeks. That moment in time, that piece of art, is gone forever. Only etched in the memories of those who were there to see it, and those who spun through it every day. And captured on digital media I guess, but let’s be honest… it’s never the same on a screen.

Anyway, to begin to wrap this up, I had another summer of a lifetime thanks to the people who pushed through the uncertainty that the drum corps was faced with last fall and decided to return despite the negativity. Our corps has gone through troubling times before, and I’m happy to say that I’m pretty sure we’ve prevailed and survived another one. And as sad as I am that I’ve only got one more go-round left of a summer with Spirit, I’m so excited to get started. I’m so excited to welcome more people into our f<(mily and see more people fall in love with this activity that’s helped keep me sane when the real world gets a little nuts. You’ll always be home.

Of course, what would a wrap-up post be without some thank-yous? So many many thanks to Chris Moore, David Coheley, and Jeff Nelson for leading the drum corps and board. Thanks to the guard staff: Kevin Griner, for ignoring the threatening emails and taking all of us under his wing; Travis Gerke for writing us an incredible book of work and believing in me more than I did myself for a long time, and staying patient with all of us; Leah, Luke, and Josh for helping me not look like a flying/flopping potato when dancing; and to Hannah for listening to our member problems/offering some solutions from the point of view as a staff member. Thanks to Hannah Banbury and Courtney Verna-Brown for being the best co-captains I could ever ask for, and again to Courtney for literally spending 24/7 with me the entire summer (and not killing me somehow?). Thanks to Katie Gulledge for dealing with me as a best friend and always being there for me, even though I accidentally bailed on you. Thanks to Philip Martinez for randomly surprising me with chocolate milk all summer, listening to the color guard drama and offering solutions, making me feel like a million bucks, and turning even the worst of days into good ones (whether you knew it or not). Thanks to my parents, sister, and aunt for flying down to Atlanta and driving up to Opelika just to spend a couple hours with me and see the show – and of course for the support I could not do this activity without. There’s a million more people I need to thank, but I’ll end this note with a thank-you to all of the people who helped me make this summer fiscally possible: the Chicago Area Runners Association, Columbia College Chicago, Dave & Kathy Kooda, Mel & Nancy Kooda, Chris Cloar, Tyler Hixon, Bob Erdman, Myron Vazquaz, Vicki Keavey, Philip Martinez, Vicky & Dave Lorenz, Steve Waksmundski, Ryan Brennan, David Keys, Mary Mattucci, Susan Bailey, Keegan Greene, Vicky & Howie Mogil, Ellen Abney, Matthew Twomey, Ian Roberson, Karen Kooda, Dawn Frick, Raul Reyes, and the Willies. Thanks will never be enough, but it’s the best I can do right now.

Color guard during “Georgia on my Mind” – Alabama
Delta set – Kentucky

Last time best time in 2017 — it’s time to age out.


Author: erikabunk

Raised in Northern Minnesota. BA in Radio/Business & Entrepreneurship. Painfully average marathoner. Spends too much time on Spotify, in search of the best record store in the world, and dreams of returning to Reykjavík.

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