Why I Joined Drum Corps

I wasn't 12 here. It's more likely   I was   16    .    left to right:  Mary Chiu, Stanley Tang, Karen Leon, Chez Bryan Ong, Simon Yu    Photo by:  Barry Tang

I wasn't 12 here. It's more likely I was 16.
left to right: Mary Chiu, Stanley Tang, Karen Leon, Chez Bryan Ong, Simon Yu  
Photo by: Barry Tang

I was twelve years old — a quiet kid that hated going to Saturday Chinese school. Every Saturday from 10AM til 1PM I would sit in class clueless and hungry. Who schedules class right through lunch time anyway?! Classes were taught completely in Mandarin as well. Though I could speak Minan fluently, I didn't know a lick of Mandarin. It was taught as a first language. For me it was my fourth. Mind you, I had already forgotten most of my third.

At the end of each semester, I would get my report card with dread. You see, in addition to grades, Chinese school would rank you so you knew your place among your peers. I consistently ranked in the bottom. Twenty-eighth out of thirty. Seventeenth out of eighteen. So long as I wasn't dead last, I would consider it a success.

My parents didn't agree. Since I was consistently a bad student, my mom said I would have to attend Sunday Chinese class as well. What? Two days in a row at Chinese school! The very next Sunday she dragged my limp body up four flights to room 408 where I just knew hell and all its follies were awaiting me. But wait. The door read Crimson Kings Drum Fife & Bugle Corps. This wasn't another Chinese class.

As she opened up the door to the tiny office, I saw about a dozen folks sitting wherever possible suddenly look up at us as if we had just walked in on a secret meeting. After looking me up and down, a few of them yelled a "Hi!" while the rest returned to their conversations. Eventually one of the instructors stood up and welcomed me. He showed me around, introduced me to a few people, and had me observe the day's rehearsal.

First was the horn line warming up with their chests filled with air ready to serenade the neighbors. Then there was the fife line running through songs as if they were flying through trees. Next I watched the guard line spinning and tossing flags with each toss reaching closer to stars. That left one more line — the drum line. I had heard them through the halls and stairwells throughout the day. I opened the door and felt the beating in my chest crescendo. It was my heart, not the drums. The thunderous cadence marched through my veins and tugged at me from within. At that very moment, I knew I was a drummer.