Colby Smith, a sophomore at Bradley Central High School, has been chosen to be a member of a professional drum and bugle corps based out of Nashville.
Over the past couple of months, the 16-year-old trumpet player has been working toward his goal of becoming a member of the Music City Drum and Bugle Corps.
After a rigorous audition process that included submitting a video of him playing and trips to Nashville for weekend band camps to be evaluated, Smith earned a spot in the corps and the opportunity to go on a national tour with the group.
“I’m really excited about having this experience this summer,” Smith said.
A drum and bugle corps is a touring competitive band that is not affiliated with any school or college. The Music City corps is affiliated with Drum Corps International, which consists of bands with members ranging in age from 14 to 22.
According to the DCI website, students in its corps generally spend May and June rehearsing carefully choreographed routines before embarking on eight-week summer tours that will have them performing for both fun and competition in venues ranging from stadiums to parades.
Smith has been working toward wrapping up his sophomore year with an eye toward his summer plans. While he ponders how being in a professional band will differ, he has continued to play with his school’s band.
While it is not totally unheard of, Kristan Ware, the director of Bradley Central’s band program, said Smith’s accomplishment is pretty rare. Over the nine years Ware has taught at the school, only one other student has been invited to join a professional drum corps.
Though he said many people don’t know what a drum and bugle corps is, Ware stressed Smith’s accomplishment is worth celebrating. A band member being picked up by an organization like DCI might be compared to an athlete getting his first shot at the big leagues.
“For us that understand it, it doesn’t go unnoticed,” Ware said. “I’m really proud of Colby.”
Because of his commitment with the Music City corps this coming summer, Smith will have to miss Bradley Central’s band camp. Still, Ware said he will be receiving even more training than he would at school and expects Smith will be “a good example” for his classmates when he returns.
Smith said his first impressions of the drum corps included the observation that its members are “very intense” about perfecting their music, something that being out of school or college for the summer allows.
Though he said it was a little “intimidating” to think of what playing with the corps will be like, it actually represents a dream come true.
Smith said he and his family once traveled to see a DCI corps perform. Though playing an instrument for a high school band seemed like a more realistic dream at the time, he told his dad that he really wanted to join a professional drum and bugle corps someday. He met his goal, though he did not do so in the way he originally expected.
Trumpet was not always Smith’s instrument of choice. When he first joined Bradley Central’s band as a freshman, he had planned to play the trombone.
Smith said his dad had trouble finding a trombone to purchase, so he brought home a trumpet one day. Though he was initially disappointed to end up with a different instrument, he said he credited that circumstance for making him what he is today — a trumpet player in a professional drum and bugle corps.
There will come a day when he is known as a member of the Music City one, but, for now, he is a Bradley Central Bear.
While one might be tempted to think that looking ahead to exciting summer plans might be a big distraction from everyday commitments like school, he said the opposite has actually been true. Counting the opportunity as a privilege, he has been making sure that nothing stands in the way of it.
It takes careful planning to balance school commitments with the music he has already begun to learn for the corps, but Smith said it has made him want to be “more responsible.”
He added his classmates have been very supportive of him as he prepares to take his trumpet stylings to Nashville — even one classmate who auditioned alongside him and was not offered the same opportunity.
“They’ve pushed me through and been really happy for me,” Smith said.
Though he doesn’t know for certain what the summer will bring, he feels it is “a good step” for his future in music and makes him want to take it more seriously.
“I feel like it’s made me more responsible,” Smith said. “I feel like I’m looking toward the future instead of what’s going on right now. It’s made me better.”
Smith said he is planning to continue with the Music City Drum and Bugle Corps at least until he goes away to college.
Though nothing is definite yet, the high school sophomore is thinking about attending the University of Tennessee and eventually becoming a college music professor.
“He’s one of our exceptional students,” Ware said. “You can tell he works hard.”