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Age Out Stories
Aging out can be tough. The excitement, the friends, the whole unique, inside view of the drum corps world, is suddenly gone. Some people, like Eric O'Connor and Susie Berry have found a way to make that separation a little easier.
O'Connor, last year's Blue Devils drum major and a new graduate of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa is spending the summer as a DCI intern, traveling with his camera to photograph shows. "I want to ease my way out, just be around for a little while longer," he said.
Berry, 26, a Concord native who started with B Corps in 1990, was an A Corps color guard member from 1992 through 1996 and winter guard member from 1996-98 and still travels with the corps. She has been working out of the souvenir trailer as she completed college.
But Berry's commitment to the Blue Devils was never limited to being simply a member of one of the marching units. For several years Susie also taught color guard to both B and C Corps. Several students Susie worked with have gone on to march with A Corps and one with the Cadets. Another student Susie taught in Blue Devils B Corps a few years ago is guard captain this year with the Cavaliers. It's a lot of fun for her to see those kids performing and to know that she had an impact on their lives, she says.
"I just love being with my friends," Berry said. In the booth, the outgoing Berry loves talking to people who come to the booth. "It's amazing to see the same people come to shows year after year, the familiar faces." Her family also has always been involved, traveling to championships each year for their vacation.
For O'Connor, both coming to and leaving the Blue Devils was a a big event. The drum major of the Kitchener, Canada-based Kiwanis Cavaliers from 1997-99 he admired and dreamed of joining the Blue Devils. "Their professionalism, the way they carried themselves, was amazing to me. You've got to understand, when you're in a young, small corps, the top three corps are gods. "
Daunted, he waited years to try out for the Blue Devils himself before finally trying out last year. "I should have tried out three years before," he says.
O'Connor's last performance was even more emotional. "I had three goals last year: to be a Blue Devil, to be in the top 12, and to conduct America/Oh, Canada (at a DCI weekend show , an honor that goes each year to the champion corps -- O'Connor was able to fulfill this dream when BD won the regional contest in Indianapolis).
He accomplished all three goals, but the story about what happened after he accomplished the final goal is exceptional. He had told his girl friend, Sue Bernardo, how exciting being inside the circle and hearing the BD brass up close was to him, and asked her to come to the recording session where the corps was to play its show. He wanted her to hear what it was like to be inside the crescent of the Blue Devils horn line when they played, too.
With Sue standing beside him during the warm-up for the recording, "I told the corps how important her support was to me as I went after my goals, how she was my best friend, and I wanted her to be my wife. I proposed to her right there." She accepted.
Friends who knew he was going to propose were ragging before hand, telling him he'd flub the words at that emotional moment. "I got through it. It was pretty amazing." The moment was captured on the 2000 Blue Devils DVD and can be heard at the end of the recording.
For O'Connor, this final summer will be enough. "I'm ready to move on. Drum corps great, I learned an incredible amount, but it's time to move on."
Berry, who starts to work as a kindergarten teacher this fall, isn't so sure. "I will still have summers off as a teacher," she said. "At this point, I would do (the souvenir trailer) again."
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