Academy Drum and Bugle Corps percussionists Keegan Crawford, Caleb West and Travis Rowland load one of the band’s massive marimbas onto the group’s equipment truck Thursday night after a stop in Bullhead City. The Academy launched its summer tour over the weekend, beginning a 9,000-mile journey for performances and competitions.


BULLHEAD CITY — The nationwide tour of the Academy Drum and Bugle Corps brought 150 competitive musicians to Bullhead City for a brief visit last week.

It eventually brought their instruments and luggage, too.

The ADBC, from the Arizona Academy of Performing Arts in Tempe, embarked on a two-month, 9,000-mile sojourn with an ominous start.

“That’s the life of drum corps, actually,” said sound engineer Beno Morris on Thursday, when the corps was supposed to be rehearsing in Bullhead City for the opening weekend of a tour that will take the Academy from coast to coast for about two-dozen performances and competitions in 17 states. The group of musicians includes recent Mohave High School graduate Brigham Marsmaker in a cast of teenage musicians and drill team members from across the United States and a half-dozen foreign countries.

After breaking camp to start the tour, the Academy and its caravan of buses, trucks and support vehicles trekked across Arizona toward a weekend of shows and competitions in California. In Page, Ariz., however, the massive trailer carrying the corps’ instruments broke down.

“There was a tire issue leaving Page,” said Todd Livingston, one of the tour directors. “(The trailer and all the band’s equipment) is on the way. Hopefully.”

The tire pressure issue was something that could be fixed, but required leaving the trailer — and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of instruments and equipment — behind. The vehicle would have to catch up with the group later. 

“Hopefully,” Morris said, echoing Livingston.

That was only the start of the adventure. Leaving Williams, Ariz., the group lost one of its four buses.

“We had a bus — we’re still not totally sure what happened, it stopped moving. It just stopped,” Livingston said. “We had to get everybody off that bus onto the other buses.”

Sounds simple enough.

“We had to cram four buses worth of people into three buses,” Morris said.

That meant that personal luggage on those three buses had to be sacrificed to make room for more humans.

“We were all crammed in there,” said corps member Caleb West while fellow percussionist Travis Rowland contorted his body to demonstrate how he spent the two-hour trip from Williams to Bullhead City.

“We all made it,” Morris said. “We’re all safe. That’s the main thing.”

Without instruments, the group didn’t get much rehearsing accomplished on Thursday. The instrument vehicle did arrive late Thursday afternoon, in time for one walk-through of the corps’ planned weekend performances in Fresno, Calif., on Friday, at the Moonlight Classic in Sacramento on Saturday and at Stanford Stadium today.

From there, it’s on to Oceanside, Calif., then to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, then Riverside on July 3 before a brief return to Arizona for a performance in Tempe on July 5.

Then the real travel starts, taking the group through the Midwest — Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota — then on a Southern swing that includes events in Texas, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia before heading to Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

The tour ends with the Drum Corps International championships Aug. 11-13 in Indianapolis.

While the adult staff members of the Academy group seemed to be taking things in stride — “We’ve all been through this before. Well, at least something like this,” Morris said — the young musicians also seemed to be adapting well.

“We didn’t have much to do,” said Rowland about the practice-without-instruments routine. “We sort of practiced mentally. We all need to practice mentally anyway.”

West noted that it was an inauspicious beginning to a long trip. But, he said, he is seeing it as an adventure.

“We’ve got the rest of the country ahead of us,” he said. “Can’t wait to see what happens next.”

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