Playing for the love of the beat

Breanna Fields, Reporter

At first glance, the sight of two young men on a street corner may not appear to be anything out of the ordinary.

It didn’t take long for those nearby to see their cardboard sign which read, “Help us get to DCI finals,” and realize that they were more than just a couple of kids busking on a street corner; they were part of something much bigger: a drum corps.

Charismatic would be the best word to describe Dom Miller as he made an attempt to sing over the roaring engines of cars as they passed by. In the palm of each hand he held a wooden drumstick, worn from hours of use.

These are the tools that enable him to be heard; the tools that fuel his musical creativity with each beat and allow him to entertain an audience with bursts of enthusiasm.

“Gotta get the crowd goin’ man!” he shouted to Jesus Navarro, a friend and fellow member of Drum Corps International.

Both Miller and Navarro belong to DCI, a non-profit organization created to entertain audiences through live performances and provide an outlet for young people to compete in drum corps.

“Drum corps is pretty much the major leagues of marching band. Everything is taken up to a whole other level of competitiveness.

“Everything is more intense, a lot more intense,” said Miller.

Miller recently auditioned and was chosen to play the drum set for the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps based out of Ohio. The Bluecoats consist of 150 members between the ages of 15 and 22.

Navarro belongs to the Blue Devils, based out of Concord, California. The Blue Devils are a successful corps sporting the title of three time world champions. Navarro also belongs to Bakersfield College’s drum line and teaches Highland and Bakersfield High School drum line.

“I’ve been drumming for almost my whole life,” said Navarro. “I was in the car with my mom and she said she wanted to sign me up for band class. I wanted to play guitar, and she said they don’t have guitar. I was like, ‘well, then I’ll play drums!’”

Navarro and Miller both plan to gear up for a grueling three-month summertime tour across the nation from June to August. Tour fees cost a total of $2,500, though with fundraising Miller said that he has already accumulated $500 over the course of two months.

A recent street performance took place on the corner of Ming and Stine, near an AT&T building. Not long after they began playing, an employee appeared with a bouquet of blue balloons.

“We’re not getting in trouble are we?” Miller teased.

The mood lightened as she explained that the reason for her emergence was not to shut down the street corner show, but to applaud them. Miller gracefully accepted the balloons, and went to work tying them on his black drum kit.

There was a constant flow of cash being tossed into the case laying open on the sidewalk for donations. Many were happy to oblige, opening up their wallets, rolling down their windows or jumping out of their car at a red light, scrambling to the sidewalk to make a contribution before the streetlight turned green.

“We’ve had people from the other side of the street try to hand us money and we’re almost risking our lives in the middle of traffic trying to accept cash,” said Miller.

An elderly woman offered Miller a dollar if he would assist her in crossing the street.

“I denied the money, and helped her cross the street, but she insisted that I take the money,” he said.

The intersection was crammed with cars trying to catch a glimpse of the action. A number of characters made their way to the crosswalk with groceries and handbags and pushed baskets filled with their belongings.

These Bakersfield residents had come from all walks of life, though in that moment it was apparent that they shared the same love of music and expressed the same amount of excitement with each smile and passing glance.

“In drum corps, each person is depending on each other to always be the best that person can be. Each member has a task they must do. Although everyone is responsible for their own part, at the end of the season everyone helps with delivering a great show. Performing in front of thousands of people is one of the best feelings. It can be nerve-wracking, but once you get used to it, it’s a feeling you can’t get anywhere else.”