Jul 12, 2005 3:24pm
Dylan Minh Thieu
  
Trumpet

Greetings All,

Well, it's about that time. After the London terrorist attack, security has been stepped up, and accordingly, we're leaving in about an hour to drive to the airport just incase they decided to search EVERYTHING we have.

Today's rehearsal was rough with the Kerkrade night gig last night. We were all sore since our performance time was almost an hour after we stretched, not to mention, I think we played every extra chart in our book before a "surprise" field show. We also did a clinic today, which was interesting with some G bugles in the mix. It was fun to have some fans with their horns in the arc, I'm sure they were thrilled too. Our ensemble block went smoothly as well and we had a huge turnout for our run through - lots of Thai kids. Our run was pretty hot, by the way. It was fun to sign some autographs and have pictures taken our last night here. I doubt the enthusiasm will be the same once we return, but I guess you never know, especially since we've been absent for so long. We're all really excited to be in cell phone range again. We were joking that no one's going to talk with each other once we land, it's going to be straight to the cell. If you think tour is tough, try touring in another continent...that's a whole different animal.

I doubt we'll be jetlagged too much. The staff has given us directions and tips for beating it so in a couple days, we should be ready to roll into our SECOND American show. If there was a Blue Devil group able to beat diversity, it's this years'. My fellow members have done a great job with handling the "mystery tour."

Well, that's about it, the next time you hear from us, we'll be home. I hope you're all as excited as we are. This program is an incredible spectacle and will prove to be impressive. Take care and we'll see you all soon.

Later.
Jul 10, 2005 9:55am
Dylan Minh Thieu
  
Trumpet

Hey guys,

We just returned from the stadium where we performed for the World Music Contest. Man, having a 360-degree crowd was awesome. There were lots of weird marks on the field and I think the hashes were wrong, but it was totally cool and we threw down a great show. Last night's run through was probably a bit better, but what can you expect for 3:23pm.

Kerkrade has been great to us. The weather has been really nice and we've been fed well for the most part. Tomorrow, we'll have a light rehearsal and a theater gig all day, so that should be fun. Tonight, we have a few hours off in Maastricht where much relaxation will be appreciated by the corps.

We've been trucking along nicely with show changes, modifications, and cleaning, but we're still counting down the days in the back of our heads. We can't wait to get to a field we can actually paint.

At the parade yesterday, this groups from Thailand was absolutely nuts about us - so many autographs and pictures. It was almost like that today, especially since some groups are staying on the same grounds. It's really cool to see people in awe for what we achieve as a single unit. Sometimes we forget how we used to look at the Blue Devils from the outside.

Well, it's about that time. We all know how precious free time is in the drum corps world. Too bad San Antonio is our last actual free "day" for tour. Oh well, we'll just be rehearsing and getting better more.

Catch you later.
Jul 7, 2005 6:50am
Dylan Minh Thieu
  
Trumpet

In the wee hours of this morning, we embarked on our 17-ish hour drive to the Netherlands – the final destination of our European tour. We left Italy and actually crossed through Switzerland on our way through France, then to Holland. Just before we left last night, we discovered an amazing opera house, where we used the facilities, that was built when my college was founded – 1854. The artwork and intricacies of the woodwork were incredible, just like the sunset in the square where we performed. The sunrise over the Alps this morning was also picturesque.

I think most everyone would agree that the best place we’ve stayed thus far was Lecco, Italy. That place was incredible in terms of scenery and hospitality. Our venue was nestled by a lake in between to huge mountains that seemed to parallel the bodies of water that surrounded us. We actually took a boat tour and got to see the gorgeous city and even windsurfers. The stadium was nice with 6 rehearsal fields, low turf, and good breezes – much appreciated by any drum corps member. Our hosts provided us with bunked beds, a welcome package, plenty of snacks, and souvenirs – outstanding on their part. We were also fed the best on this trip, so far, even if we had to walk over a kilometer to the restaurant.

The staff has appreciated our diligence in juggling performances, shows, parades, and rehearsals that are quite taxing. Back home it would just be rehearsal and shows, but here, the logistics are considerably more complicated, not to mention the added language barrier. The drunken crowd at the DCE show was by far the most excited – I heard they were doing the wave before we even came on. I think the Italians are more reserved and polite, as well as unknowing of the activity, so they aren’t as boisterous. Either way, everyone enjoys a good performance and is impressed by our presence and track record.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone is itching for some competition, not that we won’t encounter some in the coming days, but it’s mainly been exhibitions with Marching Show Bands and Jubal Drum and Bugle Corps. Regardless of how we do here, what really matters is what occurs when we get home. It’s tough rehearsing on fields we can’t paint but it really teaches us to use our eyes harder. Even though our chops are also getting beat up by the schedule and constant variability of performances, when we get home and only focus on our gig, they should be roaring and ready to roll.

In San Felice, I had my best 4th of July ever. We did our individual caption gigs, then our show, then our encore, but when retreat came, we played Ode To Joy by memory (that we just learned about 15 minutes before) followed by an amazing display of fireworks. It was directly over us and lasted so long. The best part was when the BD retreat block started singing the Star Spangled Banner – that experience meant so much more to me than doing the Bristol parade and show, I guess because we were all together, yet away from our homes and traditional festivities. Aside from our slightly charred uniforms and horns, the spectacle was absolutely thrilling.

It’s really tough missing home since we can’t seem to ever get in touch. Since we’re rehearsing all the time, we never get the chance to buy phone cards or even find a phone to use., not to mention, you have to buy a new card for each country. This is truly a bittersweet moment in my 4-year drum corps career. I’m soaking up this experience, sights, and memories, but am glad that my body won’t have to endure anymore extreme exertion once I’m finished. Being away makes you miss different things than just being away in the States. You also seem like you are missing out on more since the contact is limited. Overall, I think we’re getting along together well and supporting each other so that we continue to grow in the absence of the type of competition we would have at home. It’s tough to create the desire to push without the drive, but we’re getting it done. It think as the days count down, it’ll grow until we unleash in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I hope you all are as eager as we are.

Until the next episode… Ciao
Jun 27, 2005 5:11pm
Dylan Minh Thieu
  
Trumpet

<I>(From June 25th ... delayed due to poor internet access in Europe)</I>

Well, we’ve been in La Gorgue, France for almost a week now and a ton has happened. The day and a half of travel were “interesting,” especially when we ended up missing some equipment. Some peculiar aspects about the housing site were that it was not air-conditioned (something typical of French buildings) and there was a wafting stench of something like melting rubber and burning flesh – yum. Luckily, some fans were brought in for circulation and the smell has since dissipated. The field is really nice, soccer-type grass that’s short, but the sun is unusually intense. Some of the locals said this is really bizarre for this time of year. Another thing about being in France is that the latitude is about the same as Canada, so the sun is out before we wake and fully sets after we’ve concluded our rehearsal.

Touring in different countries kind of makes us miss some amenities enjoyed at home. I mean, drum corps itself already does a good job of that, but experiencing different cultures mixes things up even more. For instance, cold milk and ice water are rarely enjoyed, abundance of water and food, and A/C. A lot of things about France are coming back to me from my study abroad experience. For example, people here don’t drink water the way Americans do. It’s about a small glass per meal for the entire day – we guzzle gallons at a time. In addition, since it’s usually cool, A/C isn’t needed, so heaters are used during the colder seasons. I remember in past years, even in Texas has there be adequate cooling systems to alleviate our sweat and stickiness.

Enough with the negative. We had a clinic yesterday where European drum corps came to watch us rehearse through out the entire day. Unlike Holland, some countries are in the infant stages of the activity and hardly have funding. Those smaller groups are simply amazed by our size and talent. Some were explaining to us how they watch the DVD’s over and over again in awe. I had to admit to them that a lot of high school musicians and even people from other corps do that back home, too. I used to be one of them.

The sights here are AMAZING. During a warm-down one evening, John Meehan told us to put down our horns and look behind us. There’s a clock in the steeple of a church in the middle of out small town that must be at least 500 years old. He explained that even though we’re cooped up in a gym in this tiny venue, sometimes we need to stop and realize where we are. We do get that chance on our free days. Brugge and Brussels were really cool places this week and this weekend we’re off to Paris. I really have to admit; I miss the whole dining atmosphere. It’s different here. When you sit down, even if it’s by yourself, the table is yours until you want to leave. Things are very quiet so you can hear the bustle of the city and people walking around. Nobody tries to get you out to increase their turnover rate. The small town shops are quaint and all unique – some department style stores, but really neat, local shops too. That’s what the scenery is all about – architecture and local flavor.

Well, I think this has been enough. Yeah, I probably had to make up for lost time, since this little town probably hasn’t heard of the Internet. I hope you all have been able to piece together a picture as to what our experience has been like thus far. We’ll keep you posted as best as we can (no pun intended).

Late.
Jun 19, 2005 10:55am
Dylan Minh Thieu
  
Trumpet

I hope you all get the joke, if not, it really isn't that funny.

So tonight we had our first "real" show at Precision West and blew the house down. It was an incredible show. People who marched '04 didn't get to do this one, I don't think, and I haven't been in a show in two years. It was good to see vets I marched with again, and even some from the '99 era and before. It was such a major hype to actually have a crowd at our warm up and our encore - even though those are now pre-planned.

As we embark on our day-long trip to Europe, we will leave as the top drum corps in the country. Over the past week at Summerville, the members have stepped up and proven themselves as a mature, focused corps who is hungry for competition. After powering through thick grass, huge hills, and crazy weather changes, we roared into DVC and that smooth, turf field.

I hope you all are enjoying this new medium of Blue Devil contact. It's too bad that the show tonight will be the only West Coast show and the only US show for a while. I'm sure the fans will be thrilled when we return. As hectic as it may turn out to be, this international tour will be crazy fun. I'm honored to have this opportunity especially with this group of people. This year is already one to go down in the books, personally too.

For those of you who may know a little French, "A plus tard."
Jun 11, 2005 8:16pm
Dylan Minh Thieu
  
Trumpet

So, many of you have heard about how we'll never miss Mars, right? Well, we all quickly learned that there are some really nice breezes at Mars that seriously cools down our rehearsals, not to mention PB&J, Gatorade, and paint. At DVC, there is little wind and the track and astro turf magnify the heat - yay for the little green things that get stuck on our shoes and socks. But hey, at least our technique is awesome now. It even makes the really tough parts of the show considerably easier.

Jay showed up today, but only with a couple sets so the drill still isn't finished yet. So far, the closer drill is pretty easy and I haven't had to jazz run...yet. I'm sure that'll change over the course of the season.

Tonight will be our first run in uniform in preparation for Family Day. I am pretty excited. There were so many things going on in 2003 that it's all a blur to me. However, one thing that I do remember was that Family Day was the very first time I ever met Jerry Seawright. I had no idea who this man was, but when he came around the arc and shook every single member's hand, I knew he must have been someone special. For the brief duration that I knew him, I could see the things that so many older people respected and loved about him. I know that last year they "did it for Jerry," but this year, I'd personally like to dedicate this season to him.

This morning, we had a meeting at the corps hall about Europe and that got everyone even more excited. I think it's like a week from tomorrow that we depart. I'll be looking forward to utilizing my French education in France again. One thing I absolutely have to say is that our Booster Club is tremendous for giving us Free Day money and taking care of our laundry situation while abroad. That's one thing I love about this organization - the staff and support people are so dedicated and close with the members. It makes me feel proud to be part of an organization that is just as good as it's staff and world-class members.

Well that's it for now, time to hoover this pizza before our long evening block.

Later on.
Jun 10, 2005 2:08am
Dylan Minh Thieu
  
Trumpet

Sup guys, my name is Minh (pronounced "Ming" or "Min," I honestly don't care) and I am an age-out from South Carolina. I marched lead trumpet in 2003, after two years in another corps, but had to take last year off and am really excited about this year.

You've already heard a lot from other BD members so this won't be too long. I'm just excited as everyone else. The program is coming together really well and I can't wait to get our last few drill sets to complete the show before Family Day. At first, it seemed like this show was ridiculously demanding, but after a few weeks (and a newly implemented running regimen) it is getting easier quickly. Everyone's hyping including the staff. They're hard on us, but it's only because they know our potential and I admit, I see it too. The talent and work ethic in this group surpasses anything I've done before, even in 2003. I'm personally trying to "turn it on" and max out every rep musically and visually so that when we "perform" the runthroughs, I will be competely spent and will have put forth my best effort - the culmination of all the reps and blocks before.

As for Europe, I just returned from a Study Abroad experience there in the Fall and it was awesome. I can't even conceive what this round will be like with the corps. I didn't get to go to Japan, but I have a feeling that the European tour will be even more exciting and rewarding. I also have a lot of past corps memebers, professors, and my host family to look forward to seeing.

Anyway, I guess I better nuke something to eat before I go to bed so I have enough energy to finish out my last day EVER at Mars. Being an age-out really puts a lot of things into perspective.

Peace.
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