Updated: Sep 14, 2021
Although my involvement in the marching activity is no longer as a performer or an instructor aside from the occasional consulting here and there, I still am very involved. Deciding to “retire” from the activity meant no more long rehearsal days, my weekends are now open to do what I want. I like to define my retirement as waking up on Saturday to do nothing. I may have retired but I still have a direct involvement with many different ensembles. An involvement that took me back to the reason I got in to this crazy activity. That reason is “the Jacket”. I started off in 6th grade at L’Anse Creuse Middle School South in the percussion section. I can tell you I was no prodigy in those days. I was more like the problem for the band director Mrs. Brown. I never payed attention, never knew what I was supposed to be doing and got sent to the principles office a few too many times. I went through it as a little hell raiser and made my way to high school where I joined the front ensemble of the L’Anse Creuse High School Marching band. There I was under the instruction of Jason Inhat and at the time his girlfriend (now wife and mother of 2) Laura Skok Inhat. Still a little hell raiser. Not learning my parts, getting screamed at almost every rehearsal and not being prepared at all. It wasn’t until a summer rehearsal that a friend (Jake Kuykendall) I had not seen in a few years came by our rehearsal. He was wearing a jacket that I thought was the coolest thing ever. This jacket was an Eastside Fury member Jacket. It was not until this moment that I turned my attitude around. I wanted that jacket! I went home and found out just what Eastside Fury was and what I had to do to get that jacket. After 2 years of hard work and a lot of anger from my instructors (Ralph Biggs) I finally started to become a decent member and performer. I joined the tenor line in high school and in 2002 I became a member of the Eastside Fury Cymbal Line. I Learned so much in those years and took away a lot more than just how to play a drum.
Starting in high school with the front ensemble moving to the tenor line my sophomore year. Playing cymbals at Eastside fury in 2002, and in 2003 to join the tenor line. Becoming section leader in 2005 and earning a spot in the tenor line with the Crossmen Drum and Bugle Corps. Marching with them in 2005 and 2006. Also becoming an instructor in 2005. Working with my alma mater, many different high school programs, winter drumlines and drum corps. Each season with every group, I collected some sort of shirt or jacket. These articles of clothing are now along with me, retired. One day while cleaning out my closet I boxed up all the items and set them aside to be saved. Some of these shirts are so torn up that I would not even put them on to even cut the grass. My girlfriend who has never been associated with this activity said to me “uhg throw that stuff out you are never going to use any of it and some you can’t even wear anymore”. There was no way I would be throwing any of it away. Some of these shirts might have been given to me for free and might mean nothing to anyone else but, they mean something to me. A flood of memories came back to me with each piece I pick out to put in the box. I start to recall what ensemble I was with and what it was like that year. The show we were performing and all the things going on in my life during that season. Exciting moments as well as depressing times. I recalled something Joe Kuerzi had said to me when I received a position in the Eastside Fury tenor line. “you are never done auditioning until you are wearing your jacket and looking at the picture of the group taken at finals because that is when there is no way you can be cut” It was in that moment recalling this piece of advice that I thought, wow I did it, I made it happen, I had a dream and made it a reality. Year to year and season to season I set the bar higher for myself and achieved my goal. I did something great and met amazing people along the way.
After the season you have the memories to look back on. But when we get older, our bodies and our lives don’t allow for us to do the things we once did. We move away from the activity slowly distancing ourselves from the private lessons, long rehearsals that bleed in to the early hours of Saturday or Sunday morning. Feeling great about getting up on Saturday without an alarm clock. You’re not worried about getting out to the next drum corps camp and making sure you have everything prepared for the weekend or getting ready for move ins towards the end of May. The only thing you have is a jacket. A jacket you hardly wear but at one time never took it off. A jacket that really doesn’t help protect you from the elements, but you still used it all winter long and had it on well in to the warmer months when a jacket was not even needed. When it was too hot the jacket sat in your car until meeting up with friends that had that same jacket. The jacket stood for something, something you were a part of that can never be taken away. A contribution to something greater than yourself. You are forever part of a family. This family might not even know you exists but will still do anything for you and you for them. The jacket that well after it has been retired can make more memories while you re-live the memories that the jacket has reminded you of.
Now I make the Jacket along with the apparel for all those in the activity. I supply the item that will be worn by members and create the memories. The jacket that brings strangers together like they have known each other forever. The jacket that will eventually be put in to a closet when it is time to “retire” and brought out only to remember the time when we were on top of the world!
The jacket that started it all