Rising Tides by John Riley: Chapter 1

Rising Tides summarizes the past week of tour with in-depth reviews and interviews of Pacific Crest staff and members. We are grateful to alumnus John Riley for writing these stories!

Sneak Preview – June 13, 2015
There’s a buzz in the air from the membership. From the minute members arrive for morning rehearsal, it is obvious to tell that there is a sense of anticipation for what the day brings. Even though it is still early and the So Cal skies are still overcast, one thing is on everyone’s mind – the first show day. For new members, it’s their first time wearing the uniform in public. For veterans, it is the beginning of another incredible journey. For age outs, this is the beginning of the end of their lives as performing members in a World Class Drum Corps – every moment is to be cherished and no opportunity wasted. Trumpet veteran Ryan Collins says it simply, “This is the best show I’ve ever marched,” and when I asked him about his greatest challenge he’s had to overcome this season, he cites, “recovery from surgery to remove a cist in March.” I don’t have to go into details for you to figure out that he was in a lot of pain for a while, but am happy to report that as a six-year veteran of Pacific Crest, he is in full stride and on the field daily.

My name is John Riley and I was once a performing member of Pacific Crest Drum and Bugle corps as a euphonium player from 2005-2008, served on the visual staff in 2013, and now am an assistant tour administrator for the 2015 edition of Pacific Crest. I’ll be here to tell the story of Pacific Crest, from various voices of the corps.

The night before Sneak Preview, the members did a full performance run-through in the new uniforms. I wasn’t there to see it, but I did get to see the corps in their new uniforms under the stadium lights and in front of a full stadium crowd at Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights, CA, four-year euphonium veteran, Tim Ressler is excited and can’t wait to see how the crowd will react to the show for the first time with this well designed show.

By mid-afternoon, the clouds that gave us overcast skies in the morning dissipated exposing members to the hot sunny afternoons that they will come to expect from tour. The essence of sun-block and sweat fills the air of the front sidelines as members come off the field for a water break. Five-year euphonium veteran Ryan Mead says, “The summer is setting up to probably be the fastest paced summer we’ve had so far. We’ve gotten a lot of work done during every-days, more-so than any other year that I’ve marched.”

When the members finish this run-through, they are tired, make no mistake, but energy remains on the field that I sensed would carry over into the evening performance. Each person gives it their all during a performance run-through, but I could feel the anticipatory energy for the evening. Four year veteran and euphonium age-out Jerry Hernandez feels like this corps is stronger this year than in any year in the past and attributes this to the consistent vibe from weekends to every-days. One of his goals for this season is “to leave Pacific Crest in a better place than it has been, so that future corps can strive forward.

Sneak Preview is a long-standing tradition of Pacific Crest. It’s not just the first public debut performance of the season, but it’s also a chance to reconnect with alumni from the past, catch-up with familiar faces, friends, family, and friends who have become like-family. Sneak Preview has also evolved into a Southern California drum corps showcase, this year including Gold and Impulse with the addition of a food truck festival – because its not drum corps without food trucks, right.

While standing around the food trucks before the show, I was able to catch up with friend and Visual Caption Head, Bill Fritz. Bill and I marched together in 2006, but he started marching with Pacific Crest on mellophone in 2003 and 2004 and is now in his third year serving as the Visual Caption Head. “We’re full speed-ahead at the moment. The entire skeletal framework is on the field in terms of drill, all 130-135 pages and then we’ll be comfortable adding in different elements of the show – the muscles, the tendons – to bring the show to life.” Bill mentions that in previous years this process was hard because the corps was not as far along as they were this year. Bill brings to light that in his third year as caption head, he is noticing a stronger grasp of fundamentals from a visual standpoint from the drum corps. Creating a visual program and structuring rehearsals in a very purposeful and consistent way has helped contribute to this, in addition to having many returning staff members to the visual team.

Bill is not the complacent type or the kind of person that is comfortable with being comfortable. He puts immense pressure on himself to grow himself as an educator. “Every year is a chance for myself to grow as an educator. What can I do for the students? How can I meet with the staff, how can I meet with my superiors to plan a way to give our students the 100 percent most effective tools to create their best performance where they want to come back and they are 100 percent happy?” Bill is one of many staff members and we’ll hear from more throughout the season to give you a better insight into why Pacific Crest continues to attract talented students throughout the country and even internationally as well as seeing that the staff is here for the benefit of the students.

Start of Tour – June 15, 2015
The corps moved in officially to Diamond Bar H.S. on Monday June 15th, the corps’ home-base for three days earlier last week before leaving Thursday morning for tour, with their first stops being in Northern California and then back to Southern California through the 4th of July, where Pacific Crest will then leave the state for an overnight drive to Utah.

Catching up with the corps only three days after this brief move-in as they were clearing out the gym and waiting for the arrival of their busses, which would become part of their living space until they return home in August I noticed some interesting sights happening in the gym. After speaking with rookie trumpet player, Aaron Talabucon, I walked in on a mini-sectional where members were catching up fellow section-mates of new choreography, because they were still in school. Aaron cites the “family-like care of the corps” as one factor that instills confidence in approaching the drum corps experience as a rookie.

One thing that to notice is that despite all of these people being members of the same corps, each person has a very different and unique experience. Rookie percussionist, Cherelle Ross plays Bass 1 in the battery and came in to fill an open percussion spot Memorial weekend and was plunged deep into the drum corps experience, but yet was welcomed into the family. Her staff and fellow bass players would frequently reassure her that she would be able to meet the expectations that her staff had for her. She really likes the people in her section and at times feels like the bass line little sister/mom. “Sometimes they treat me like I’m a little baby, but they also expect a lot from me and have helped me transition into the drum corps.”

Stanford – June 20, 2015
Drum corps is a place that the young members look to ‘suspend real life’ for three months while travelling and being on the crazy journey that is tour. Tour life has its own challenges known to all members, but some members have other challenges they face throughout the duration of the season. It’s not unusual for percussionists and color guard performers to be minimally involved with the respective corps until the indoor winter season is through. That challenge is very true of our high school student as well as some of our college-aged students in the color guard and percussion sections.

Robin Truong, a three-year veteran of the baritone/euphonium section has had a lot on her plate this season, in particular. She met up with the corps on Saturday after graduating from Aliso Nigel High School on Friday night and instead of going to grad night, spent the night in a car being driven up to Northern California and pulled in at 4:30AM. The corps didn’t wake up until 11AM that morning and she cites that as a night where she has had more sleep than everyday that week with all the driving from home, to school, to rehearsal and back. She was also a charter member of OCI Winds and in addition to a few other horn players, splitting their preseason time with the corps and the newly formed independent winter ensemble. She was quite pleased with the performance at Stanford, mentioning that their performance was a good average of the quality of their rehearsals.

Drum major Dakota Chavez cites Stanford as their best show so far, mentioning that this was the, “first big stage for the ensemble this year.” His unique perspective is not in any way the same as any other performing member. “It’s really cool to see that energy being translated from the corps to the crowd and the crowd reciprocating that.” When I asked him about the new look he says, “I think the uniforms are fantastic, people are turning their heads, and then when they hear us they get really excited.”

It’s only been one week into the season and perhaps that’s where the buzz and hype is coming from. But there is something else to look out for with Pacific Crest that I just can’t put my finger on right now. There is a focus with this corps like I’ve never seen and they move with such a purpose that is unprecedented for this ensemble.

The corps is making it’s way back to Southern California for shows in Oceanside, Pasadena, and Riverside. It’s not too late to see them before they leave the state!
 Visit www.pacific-crest.org/calendar to find out where you can see them.