Monday, February 12, 2007

On the Field from Denver, Colorado. . .The Blue Knights

Author: Gregory M. Kuzma
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.
ISBN: 0-595-32278-6

In 1994, a college student named Greg Kuzma spent his summer break touring with an American drum and bugle corps company, the Blue Knights. This book is based on his daily journal.

The summer begins with Kuzma's flight from his home in Florida to the Blue Knights' home in Denver, Colorado. The 128 corps members, who are billeted in local homes throughout Denver, meet every day for 12 or more hours of rehearsals. Their show, when it is ready, will be approximately 11 minutes long; all of the music and drill will be performed by memory. Upon the completion of approximately three weeks of rehearsal camp, the corps hits the road for a two-month-long tour across the United States.

Once the tour begins, the corps members live primarily in buses and school gyms, and they rarely stay in one town for more than one night. Most of their meals are provided by the chuck wagons that travel with the group. According to Kuzma, the food is fairly good and nutritious. He eats far less junk food over the summer than he does throughout the year at college. Nevertheless, according to his daily journal entries, he consumes a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The Blue Knights compete against approximately 20 other division 1 drum corps throughout the summer. Competitions are held 3-5 nights per week throughout the country and each corps competes approximately 30 times before heading to the final round of competition in mid-August. When the corps members are not competing or traveling, they march in local parades and spend time refining their shows. Days off are rare and treasured events.

Throughout his journal, Kuzma describes the ups and downs of his friendships and the stresses that relationships endure when approximately 150 people live and work closely together for 3 months. He describes the fatigue of long rehearsals and the elation of good performance scores. He describes the joy of a successful season and his sorrow at the summer's end. Most importantly, he shares the many lessons that the drum corps experience taught him about discipline, commitment, physical and psychological endurance, patience and communication. For Kuzma, the drum corps experience is not merely about marching, playing and competing. It is, ultimately, about developing skills and work habits that he will take with him long after the last note has been played.

Due to its specialized subject matter, this book will appeal to a fairly small group of readers. Nevertheless, there are some people who will benefit greatly from reading this book. Anyone interested in joining a drum corps should read this book. Anyone who is the parent of a drum corps member, or a prospective member, should read this book. In fact, drum corps fans of all ages will enjoy reading this book. For readers such as these, Kuzma's book is a goldmine of honest, inside information about the drum corps experience.

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