MUSCATINE, Iowa—The pay-off is worth the 12-hour-long days in the hot sun and continuous practice for a group of young musicians from all over the country who stopped in Muscatine this week.
The Colts Drum and Bugle Corps from Dubuque stayed at Muscatine High School while traveling the country this summer as part of their Cornfield Tour in Iowa, before they move on to competitions and performances from Texas to Georgia, Ohio to Indianapolis, and many other locations.
The Colts are comprised of 150 16-21-year-olds, who move from place to place while practicing and competing during the day, then sleeping on the bus or in high schools, under the watchful eye of 50-75 staff members.
Drum corps is not a marching band, because there are no woodwinds in the ensemble. Jason Schubert, a tour director with the Colts, said intensity is also a defining feature of drum corps.
"It's like marching band on steroids," Schubert said.
Recent Muscatine High School graduate Teddy Van Winkle came back to visit while on tour with the Colts drum corps.
The 16-year-old said he was happy to make a stop in his hometown, because he is familiar with his surroundings.
"From jumping place to place it's nice to be back home, and it's nice because I know my way around the facilities. Sometimes there's questions about where things are and where we need to go, and I can help out," he said.
Van Winkle also participated in the Colt Cadets, what he described as the "little brother" to the older corps, for middle and high school students. He plans to go to the University of Iowa in the fall.
The corps members ate their lunches, rested in the shade, and then raced back to the fields behind MHS to continue practicing. The group Teddy practiced with stood on the football field in a perfect circle, after racing to the center holding a jug of water on one hand and their instrument in another.
The boot-camp-like atmosphere was broken by conversation and relaxation during the short lunch break, but everyone was back to work the moment the break ended. Van Winkle said it's like no other experience.
"You're not moving place to place sightseeing, you wake up and you're in another town," he said.
He said he is looking forward to performing in his hometown, when the Colts have a free performance at 8:45 p.m. Friday, June 17 in the stadium at MHS.
Schubert said the free performance is good practice, because the corps can play in front of a crowd of people rather than just the staff accompanying them on the trip.
"And we do it to give back to the community," he said.
Drum Corps International will be coming to Muscatine August 5, with the Muskie Marching Band opening, and six drum corps performing in the competition, including the Colt Cadets. The Muskies will present part of Swan Lake, which is the theme of their fall show, before the corps perform.
Jeff Heid, the Muscatine High School band director, said having the Colts in town was a similar feeling to having a pro football team come through and watching them practice and play.
"The hope is that even if just one kid hears that sound and it clicks, or one section leader sees something they're doing and says 'We can do that here,' it makes what we're doing better, and we can improve," Heid said.
Van Winkle said he would recommend the summer camp to any of his fellow Muskies.
"Every day's an adventure," he said.