Story by Kristin Schaeffer, photos courtesy of Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps
Established in 1957 with their first performance in 1958, Casper’s own Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps has been working with community partners and within their own organization to put together a stellar year for both the Corps and the Casper community in celebration of their fast approaching 60th Anniversary in 2018.
According to Michael Gough, Marketing Director for the Troopers, the main goal of the celebration is to make the Corps more accessible to it’s hometown fans by expanding their performance schedule in Casper from just one performance to multiple consecutive days of performance; a Homecoming Show that will allow more opportunities for fans to attend.
History of the Corps
The late Jim Jones, a successful developer in Casper, was the figure behind the formation of the Troopers.
“Originally, it was developed as an organization for the kids in Casper, but the problem was that Casper was so isolated from competition from other groups, the founder at the time, a successful contractor, decided to put the Corps on busses and took them to the East Coast,” said Gough. “They came out of nowhere and within 10 years they were the World Champions. It shocked everybody. You think of Casper as being a small town now, imagine what it was like in 1969 when they won everything.”
Casper’s Troopers were front runners in the concept of traveling Drum Corps.
The Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps helped shape the activity nationwide when they started touring for competitions according to Gough.
“Drum Corps became a nationwide touring thing and then in 1972 our founder organized all the other Drum Corps into Drum Corps International and it became this huge operation,” he said.
What is Drum Corps?
Drum Corps is a professional level marching band, essentially. 150 kids ranging in age from 14-21 pay tuition, practice once per month from November to Memorial Day, then come together to live and rehearse from Memorial Day for a full month while they put the show together, said Gough. After that they start touring.
Managing the Corps and keeping things on track is no small feat.
The Troopers consists of 80 horns, a drum line of about 25 kids, xylophones and timpani drums, dancers, flags and rifles, plus an instructional staff of approximately 50 people, according to Gough. It takes much coordination, planning, discipline and hard work to keep it going. Not to mention a significant amount of funding.
The kids and instructors travel to 15-20 states during their touring season in four full sized tour buses, one dedicated to carrying equipment only and another a kitchen on wheels that provides three meals per day for the kids and staff.
Troopers Bingo Hall is only a small source of income for the Corps. While it does help, the Drum Corps relies heavily on the generosity of it’s sponsors and donors.
(If you would like to sponsor or donate to the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps visit http://troopersdrumcorps.org/support/ways-to-give )
A Day in the life of a Drum Corps performer
If the Corps is already on location in a place they plan to stay for a couple of days, they rehearse from 8am to 10pm with meal breaks.
“if it’s a show day generally we would pull into a school at four in the morning, we would house in a gym, split boys and girls,” said Gough. “They’d probably sleep for about four hours on the floor, get up at 8, we would rehearse and then probably around 3 or 4 pm they start preparing for a performance. Then they would go to the show site, all the other Drum Corps would arrive simultaneously, and one by one we would perform the competitions in front of massive audiences. Anywhere from high school stadiums all the way up to NFL stadiums.”
What do participants take away from Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps?
“The root and core of this operation is the kids,” said Gough. “It [Drum Corps] teaches them discipline and teaches them the idea that if you want something, you can go out and get it. And teamwork and being able to survive hard times. Living on the road is not easy. If you can do that for a few years; Man! Anything is possible after that.”
The kids give their all to Drum Corps and in exchange the Corps doesn’t just age the kids out and forget about them, the organization keeps track of its alumni. They look to see what former Drum Corps members go on to do.
“The development that you see in these kids and you can trace that by looking at our alumni success stories,” said Gough. “We’ve got two former snare drummers that are a part of the Fife and Drum Corps of the U.S. Army and they just performed at the inauguration. These two guys were both section leaders at different times in the Troopers. Out of only 4 snare drums in that group, two of them are former Troopers.”
The most recent success stories of the Troopers Alumni, is from this year’s Super Bowl LI.
Kaitlin Foytik, who marched with the Casper Troopers last summer, Jonathan Alvarado who marched in 2007 and current color guard staff member Chris Cook joined Lady Gaga for her halftime performance at Super Bowl LI.
“I’m so grateful for being given this once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Foytik. “Every moment of this experience was incredible! One moment I’ll never forget was getting to meet Lady Gaga. She walked into rehearsal one day and saw us standing on the sideline and she immediately walked over and shook all of our hands and thanked us. I thought it was incredible that she took the time to greet each of us. I also loved getting to spin with alumni and current cast from Cypress Independent. It was really cool to blend all of the cast together and be able to represent the color guard community on such a global scale.”
Alvarado explained that without having been a member of the Troopers he never would have achieved this honor.
“To this day, marching with the Troopers has been one of the defining moments in my life,” he said. “I think on it often and reminisce of the memorable times I had while spinning there. Who would’ve thought that would eventually lead to being a featured performer in the Super Bowl! I definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at today without Troop.”
Stay tuned for more as the anniversary celebration plans develop. West Winds will keep readers updated about events as dates become more solid. Check back! (If you would like to sponsor or donate to the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps visit http://troopersdrumcorps.org/support/ways-to-give )