Rising Tides by John Riley: Chapter 5

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!

Thursday July 16, 2015

I just finished eating my traditional pre-tour-departure meal with my girlfriend, Kate, which was at In N’ Out. We’ll be apart for three weeks, totaling 22 days. Back when I was marching, I couldn’t wait to get away from real life, and it was always nice to leave home. It’s a nice change of scenery and the drum corps becomes quite an expansive extended family.

Cellular technology at the time was just beginning to become affordable, and so communication was still limited, as coverage across the country was still not the best and neither were the plans for allotted talk-time minutes. Mail stops were rare and infrequent or non-existent. Care packages were not as popular back then as they are now.

I can see why parents lament the departure of their children – the people they love most, and now it is with a heavy heart that I leave my girlfriend in L.A. as I get ready to board a plane bound for San Antonio, Texas. But I’m not the only one leaving behind a significant other as I leave for tour.

Friday July 17, 2015

I sat down the night before San Antonio with veteran snare drummer, Race Krueger, age-out percussion captain over an evening post-rehearsal snack before members shower and go to bed.

“This week has been really tough – Most sections hit a mental-block around this time of the season. Today, every section of the corps got better and it’s been a while since we’ve been able to get that kind of work done.”

Race speaks for the battery that there were times it felt like they just weren’t getting any better. “There were days where it felt like we played certain things better back when we were in Oceanside – as if we were taking steps backwards.” But that’s not the actual reality, there’s just a mental block that has to be overcome.

At this point in the tour, the corps has been away from home for so long that it is natural for members to feel homesick. “You’re just trying to constantly come into contact with people you love” and he adds, “People tend to especially miss their dogs. When you’re leaving home, its kind of daunting – leaving them is much harder than it should be, its only two months.”

Many staff members leave for tour and have to say good-bye to not just their significant other, but also their spouse, children, and even their pets.

Family is important to Pacific Crest and is one of our foundational core values, and none of what we do matters or is even possible without the support of our Pacific Crest family and our own circles of support. We could not be more appreciative, thankful, or grateful for the spouses that send their husbands and wives on tour with us as instructional staff, cooks, drivers, photographers, and more. Without these volunteers on the road with us, the drum corps can’t serve the membership. Without these instructors, our performers could not accomplish the great things that they do, build the skills and grit that can only be gained by being pushed daily in the maniacal and rabid pursuit of excellence. Without these great men and women in our ranks, our members are cheated out of priceless life experiences, and they also get to build their own pseudo-families within the drum corps that will last a lifetime.

Stuart Pompel, one of Pacific Crest’s original founders and the present Executive Director, had some things to share with me when I asked him about the drum corps touring experience. Throughout the years, Stuart’s family has been growing. “My time is now better spent working on behalf of the organization rather than being on tour.”

His role and capacity is comparable to that of an athletic director, where he will come in every once in a while and give support and encourage the staff and members. Our Program Director (Seth Murphy) is more akin to a head coach, and our Operations Manager (Ed Martin) allows Stuart to be more productive from the home office – working on the future.

He went on the road for a weekend in Nor Cal and another weekend for Denver, turning them them into mini-Father/Daughter trips. Why was he able to do this? Because Pacific Crest has a structure and staffing in place to function without the presence of the Executive Director – where he doesn’t need to engage in day-to-day operations and logistics. “Ed Martin, in particular, keeps the whole thing together from first day of tour the end. He does a way better job than I could ever do!”

Pompel’s last trip will be for world championships – Tuesday through Saturday. It’s a much longer and harder trip. “It’s not easy to be away. The first couple of nights are great with lots of activity and things to do, but closer to the end of that week I really start to miss home. My mind is always asking, ‘What’s Ann doing? How are the kids?’ Even talking to them via FaceTime is not the same as being there.”

Pacific Crest is structured so that the drum corps can be friendly to work-life balance – the Executive Director can work from home and caption heads have enough staff so that the lead guys can come in and out to give the members the best experience ever without having to sacrifice the entirety of their summer to the drum corps.

So, to all the spouses out there at home that allow your husbands and wives to go out on tour during the summer – from a week to the whole tour, we thank you for your support that allows the drum corps and its members to thrive. The members get an amazing experience because we have incredibly talented veteran instructors that get to go on the road. We want to thank you for your support to your husbands and wives as you loan them to us over the course of the summer for the sake of enriching the lives of our future leaders – whether its teaching brass, prepping meals for 200 people four times a day, sewing uniforms, or driving a truck, we thank you. And we know it’s not easy to part ways for the summer. We thank the parents of our members for the volunteering that they do, but also for giving us your most prized possessions (your kids!) for the summer, to mold them into the young men and women that we know will be tomorrows leaders in whatever they aspire to do.

Stay tuned next week for Chapter 6, as the corps makes their way through the south as they make their way to Atlanta!

Catch updates on the website at www.pacific-crest.org as well as “Liking” us on Facebook, following us on Twitter @pcdrumcorps, and following the corps on Instagram, @pacificcrest.