Students spend their summer break in many different ways. Some students take internships with a dream job, others go on vacations and some just simply go home.
For TJC alumnus and current UT Tyler junior John Conrado, he spent his touring the nation with Drum Corps International (DCI).
“Drum Corps, to give the easiest explanation, it is marching music’s major league. It’s kind of like professional marching band,” said Conrado.
Conrado’s journey to DCI was an unusual one to say the least.
“For me I was actually auditioning for a different group, the Madison Scouts, until February. I actually got cut from the Madison Scouts in February,” said Conrado. “So, at that point I was looking for a home for the summer and I reached out to one of the guys that teaches at the Seattle Cascades and he was like ‘Yeah man, we still have openings and we’re looking for people.’”
From there Conrado sent audition videos to the Cascades from February until the end of March. That is when they finally made the decision to contract Conrado, officially making him a member of a World-Class Drum Corps.
“I went to a couple of camps in Seattle in May. Then I left Tyler at the beginning of June to start the whole summer band experience,” said Conrado.
The drum corps Conrado was a member of started their summer journey in the Oregon area, and proceeded to make their trip across the nation.
“It was a crazy experience, man. It was nuts. For me, I love the performance aspect of doing band and playing drums so it was really cool getting to perform across the country, spanning literally coast-to-coast,” said Conrado. “We had our first show, it was in Oregon just outside of Portland and our last show of the season was in Indianapolis. We also performed in Pennsylvania right before we went to Indianapolis. I literally got to travel across the entire United States, from west coast to east coast, and perform and go to these venues and different places throughout the United States.”
The venues Conrado marched at over the summer ranged from local high school to professional sports stadiums like Mile High Stadium, home to the Denver Broncos and eventually at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. That is the location of the World-Class finals competition.
“It was very tiring. We’ll perform at a venue, we’ll load up our buses and all of our equipment, and we’ll head on the road at 10 or 11 o’clock at night. Then we’ll show up at our next housing sight at anywhere from 2 a.m. to, on some occasions, 9 a.m. So, you’re sleeping on the bus a couple of hours of floor time and you get up the next morning, you rehearse and you do the same thing,” said Conrado. “You go perform a show and we had a formula and did it every day.”
Even though the Cascades are based out of Seattle, Conrado met people along the way that represented the whole country.
“Me being from Texas, me being nowhere near Seattle, there’s a lot of people I met that were from all over the country. I marched with people that were from Canada, people that were from North Carolina, that were from Pennsylvania and me from Texas, so we had people from all across the country marching,” said Conrado. “I got to meet a lot of people from across the country. I got to see a lot of different views and just kind of see how people act from different places of the country, see how people live, how they think.”
On the field, Conrado marched on the bass drum line. The line was comprised of five drummers, including Conrado. Over time, the line’s chemistry grew to make them a well-oiled machine when playing together.
“Collectively we [bass drum line] play one piece of music. So all five of us are working together to make the music speak. I think it’s really cool and really interesting to see whenever it’s done well, but it can also be really hard to make happen. There’s a lot of getting to know people and you really got to connect with people to play, you got to basically feel how the guys around you are going to play,” said Conrado.
With Conrado on the bass line for the Cascades, three of them were from the Seattle area and one was from Utah. As the season went on, Conrado says you could hear the chemistry on the field.
“It’s kind of an interesting dynamic. Having these three guys who kind of knew each other from the same area and then two out of state guys coming together and getting to know each other and forming friendships and bonds, which then help turn into good music on the field,” said Conrado. “You could hear in the way we play the drum, the farther we went on in the season, the more we got to know each other. You could almost hear that in the sound.
Conrado’s fondest memory from the season was coming back home to Texas. Drum Corps members often call their time in the south the “Swamp Tour” with regards to how humid the weather is.
Since the corps was based in Washington, the weather was around 60 degrees. A drastic change from the weather in the south.
“I can specifically remember getting off of our buses in Kansas and feeling this huge wave of humidity and heat hit me. Everyone else is freaking out and the heat hit me and I thought ‘This is what home feels like,” said Conrado.
By the time the Cascades made their way to Texas, Conrado had already spent a month and a half away from friends and family.
“We had two shows in Texas. One in Denton, which is about an hour away from my hometown in Canton, and one in San Antonio. It was really cool to me to be back home,” said Conrado. “I had a lot of friends and family members come out and support.”
Having left June 9 and the first Texas performance in Denton be July 20, it had been over a month since Conrado saw anyone from home.
“I love my family. I think the moment that meant the most to me was when I saw my little brother. He’s 17, so him and I are pretty close,” said Conrado.
Conrado is working on auditioning for a different corps for next season, The Cavaliers. On the Nov. 24, Conrado will have an audition camp in Dallas for The Cavaliers.