Drum major dreams


photo by Zach Ashcraft via Abby Rieger

Although she was initially just excited to be there, senior Abby Rieger was grateful that she chose to be a part of Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps after attending the audition camps. “The organization is truly like a family,” Rieger said. “Whether that means being great friends, holding each other accountable, being there for emotional support, pushing each other to be better all the time or whatever other positive aspect a family could bring to your life.”

In one phone call, senior Abby Rieger’s entire summer was booked. One month later, a global pandemic emptied her schedule again. 

Rieger, a three-year drum major, was offered a drum major position for Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps, a competitive member of Drum Corps International. DCI is the professional level of marching band: corps train and compete around the country for a full summer. However, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 DCI season has been canceled. 

Her first audition camp started Nov. 30 at Trinity High School. Beforehand, the drum major candidates learned ”Audivi In Media Nocte,” a part of SCV’s 2019 show. Carl Huang, SCV’s 2018 head drum major, evaluated and helped train the auditionees.

“We’d alternate learning about conducting and leadership,” Rieger said. “The way Carl taught leadership was very unique, and I really enjoyed it because instead of him lecturing and us taking notes or filling in blanks to a packet he’d made us, he gave us mini group projects and games. We split up into teams so we could bond with our fellow auditionees and also bring each of our unique perspectives to the table when discussing leadership.” 

After the Dallas camp, Rieger moved on to an interview round where she had a Zoom meeting with the SCV staff, board and a couple of former drum majors. Then, she moved on to the callback camp that started Jan. 17 in Santa Clara, Ca., where the drum major candidates had their own workshops while taking on responsibilities such as metronome maintenance and leading rehearsals. Rieger said before the camp, she pushed herself as a conductor. 

“I learned a couple [of] new pieces and studied their scores, worked to perfect basic conducting patterns and definitely practiced showing different styles more clearly like legato versus staccato versus marcato,” Rieger said. “I would get to the school to practice at 6:30-6:45 every day for the weeks leading up to the audition, and I stayed after musical rehearsals several times so [assistant band director J.P.] Wilson could give me conducting lessons.” 

On March 26, DCI announced that the 2020 season would be canceled. SCV responded by offering all existing contracts for the 2021 season, and the corps is continuing to encourage its members to stay in shape physically and musically with video assignments and connections through a Facebook group. 

“The DCI community is so large I can’t say I’d speak for all of them,” Rieger said. “Disappointment, shock, and a sense of loss occupy many of them, but also understanding and acceptance due to the circumstances everyone is in. Many are looking forward to how clean the shows will be in 2021, though, since corps will have had so much to practice.”

Choosing a corps to spend full days of rehearsal and many overnight trips in charter buses with is a summer-long commitment. Rieger said her SCV drum major team including Andrew Launier, Aaron Bouchard and Lizzie Rivera and corps director Ivan DeLaCruz were welcoming and helpful in addressing her concerns, and Wilson was a wonderful mentor who pushed and believed in her. 

“I remember distinctly at January camp sitting down in a random cluster of people to eat lunch, not knowing I was among all trumpet veterans,” Rieger said. “They welcomed me and allowed me to listen to their meeting, where they discussed their goals for the section, drive to be better and how deeply they cared for every member and the corps as a whole. When I heard their passion for their music and their family, it clicked for me that I was in the right place. The corps slogan is ‘there’s no place like Santa Clara,’ and after getting to spend some time with them, I wholeheartedly agree.”

As for why she decided to do DCI in the first place, Rieger said after the experiences she’s had at Hebron, she realized she wanted to take on another musical challenge. 

“It was another path I realized I could take to keep pushing myself to become a better friend, leader, future educator and overall member of society,” Rieger said. “I’ll be majoring in music education at UNT and will become a band director afterward, so this opportunity was right up my alley because the skills I learn there I can also use when I teach my own band in the future.”