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Today marks the start of the annual tour for Southwind, an elite drum and bugle corps representing the Southeast region’s best percussion and brass players.

(Oh, and coincidentally, today marks this blog’s 8th anniversary – thank you to all my readers and friends for 8 incredible years!!! xxxooo). Back to Southwind:

They will travel nearly 6,000 miles in six weeks, performing and competing in cities throughout the Eastern seaboard and the Midwest, culminating with a world class competition at the Colt’s football stadium in Indianapolis.

Southwind began 40 years ago and carefully selects its members from rigorous auditions and recommendations. This year, its members hail from 15 states. Lucky for us (and our son who plays the euphonium), they chose our county as Ground Zero for their many weeks of rehearsal camps leading up to today, so we didn’t have to go far to visit him.

Last night they held their dress rehearsal, before they leave tonight for Valdosta, GA, their first stop on the tour circuit. We will catch up with Southwind again next Saturday in upstate Alabama for one of their competitions, before they head north for New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan and points beyond.

Some highlights from yesterday:

The schedule is dizzyingly intense, with few breaks

Local high schools house the Corps; boys in the gym, girls in the cafeteria, members over 18 in another room (members are from both high schools and universities)

Shoe blow-out is common – these students engage in marathon-training conditions in blistering heat and are fed special high-energy diets and go through gallons of water a day

Did I say “blistering heat?” This was what the sign said yesterday as I was leaving camp at 4:30pm

The supplies and resources necessary to pull off a tour of this magnitude are phenomenal. How every detail comes together is a miracle of the many staff and volunteers who expertly think of everything!

You just never know who’ll show up on tour with Southwind!

(wonder if this guy ever wishes he’d taken up the trumpet instead?) Everyone helps haul the instruments, props and supplies

Meals are served outdoors and consist of lots of high protein, high carb foods. I’m told that spicy and sugary foods are off the list for the most part.

It takes a crew to wash the uniforms, a crew to cook and clean up, a crew to keep track of the students, a crew to organize and pull off the tour, etc. Check out the Southwind website to see their talented Visual Staff and Percussion Staff.

Warming up on the field while the rest of the Corps unloads

Full percussion warming up with brass getting ready behind (note everyone’s gallon jugs precisely at their sides)

Just like a pro ball team, each position/section has its coaches. For the Corps, this includes experts in fine-tuning (literally, as in ensuring drums are properly tuned). The coach listens to each drum carefully, getting down to drum-level with his ear and instructs each player accordingly to ensure perfection.

Each instrument has to be inspected, each day

For each performance, they have a very short amount of time to assemble all instruments, props and supplies, so they learn, among other skills, how to, um, for lack of a better term, haul ass

The drum majors take the field. Yes, that is a roller coaster in the far background but it was so hot we didn’t see anybody on the rides!

The dress rehearsal turned into an un-dress rehearsal, as the searing heat even after the sun went down, prompted them to spare the uniforms for the tour and they did the rest of rehearsal in their bibbers (and white gloves – never ditch the white gloves, so sayeth the Lady, no matter what the conditions!)

The choreography, precision and talent are mind-blowing!

The performers put their heart and soul into each note

This year’s show is called, “The Cage,” in four movements. The first movement portrays what it is like to feel caged – the constraint, the sacrifice of self, the pain of stuck-ness. The second movement illustrates the frenzied attempts to break out of the cage, unsuccessfully.

Movement three is about what we might call learned helplessness, or accepting our circumstances, perhaps complacency and/or ditching the dream to be free and happy. Choosing to settle. Learning to be “happy” and giving up on potential.

In the last movement, the cage finally opens and we experience the joy of true freedom, being able to live life to its fullest capacity and the relief of being out in the open at last.

The show is copyrighted so we are forbidden to upload videos of the performance (plus we don’t want to give our secrets away to our competition before the tour!), else I would have loved to share the power of the sound and theatrics this talented group of students and staff produce.

Am I outside the cage, or in? What about you?

And, just like a ball team, they have their own mini-ambulance

Away from the action, empty hangers, backpacks and instrument cases line the fence

Ready to roll up the road to the next venue!

I caught up with him after last year’s show in Hiram, GA

Thanks, God, for opportunities You give us and our children to exercise talents, discover new skills and to experience great adventures. Thank You for freeing us of the many cages of our own making in which we ensnare ourselves….and may we always fully trust and be free in Christ.

(This hot summer – and now 16 and driving! – he values a shorter haircut than last year lol) – Godspeed, Jonathan William and all of Southwind!

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