St. Helens teen to tour with Seattle drum corps
Drum corps — it's like marching band on steroids.
That's the way most athletes and musicians involved in drum and bugle corps describe it. If you ask Alana Saul, a junior at St. Helens High School, who has earned a spot in the color guard of the Seattle Cascades Drum and Bugle Corps for the 2019 season, she'll tell you the same.
"When I describe drum corps, I describe it as marching band but on steroids, and without the woodwinds," Saul said.
Seattle Cascades is a 154-person drum corps based in Seattle that allows members between 14 and 21 years old to take part in the brass section, drum line and color guard. The corps will travel 13,000 miles in July and August, making 17 stops along the way before reaching the Drum Corps International World Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Saul auditioned for the corps in December and was offered a contract to join the color guard after her first tryout, which took place over a three-day camp. In April, she was required to attend another color guard camp, which served as secondary auditions for prospective members. This month she started attending required camps for all corps members.
When summer begins, drum corps members will spend two weeks working 13 hours a day to learn an 11-minute show, "Off The Grid," which they will perform throughout the competition season.
"It's a lot harder than it seems. People think that just spinning a flag or playing an instrument is extremely easy, but it's really not. It takes a lot of focus. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be able to do something like that," Saul said.
When the drum corps hits the road, it will be housed in school gymnasiums throughout the country where members have access to school fields. There, they'll spend many more hours cleaning up their drill, polishing music and perfecting their show.
"Color guard for the high school level is fun and it's great and it's hard in its own ways, but drum corps is sort of the next level because you have 13-hour days where all you do is learn your show and practice your show," Saul explained. "You perform an 11-minute show in front of thousands of people. So it's kind of the best you can get."
The culminating event will be the Drum Corps International Championships at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indiana. While the path to the championships will take a lot of hard work and mental strength, Saul said the sense of joy, pride and excitement she feels performing on the field will drive her.
"I know that over the summer, every single time I perform, it's just gonna keep reminding me — this is what I'm here for," Saul said. "When I get to Lucas Oil Stadium, that will be the real moment, where this is everything I've been working for."
This will be the first time Saul has ever taken part in drum corps, but she is looking forward to the challenge.
"How I've always been raised is to always go for what I want and always keep pushing myself for my highest goals. So drum corps has always seemed like one of those really big goals, and so I've just been working to push myself there," she explained.
To take part in the 2019 summer drum corps season, Saul paid a $3,800 fee, which helps cover transportation, housing and food costs. She helped cover the expense by participating in numerous fundraisers and holding down two part-time jobs.
During high school, Saul has participated in the high school marching band's color guard for three years, serving as both a captain and co-captain, and has also taken on leadership roles with the school's winter guard.
St. Helens High School band director Noelle Freshner said she is proud of the work Saul has put in to earn a spot with the drum corps while still a high school student.
"For her to do this so young and still have another year in a Division 1 drum corps (as a high school student), it's incredible," Freshner said. "She's a really hardworking kid. If anyone deserves it, it's her. So this is incredible for her."
Freshner said she can't wait to see the corps perform at Lucas Oil Stadium later this summer. The DCI Championships are usually webcast online, and Freshner said plans to log on to watch.
"I can't wait to see her," Freshner said.
More Drum Corps
The Seattle Cascades Drum and Bugle Corps will host its first performance of the 2019 season at the Drums of Fire competition. The event will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 5, at Doc Harris Stadium is Camas, Washington. Tickets are available online and range from $20 to $45.