For one Draughn High School alumnus, this summer was spent making a long-time dream into a reality.
Andrew Francis, a 2015 graduate of DHS, was selected to be one of the 150 members of the Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps based in Atlanta, Georgia. He spent the summer traveling all over the country doing what he loves, marching and playing music.
“Basically, it is the marching arts for the elite,” Francis said. “It is professional marching band without woodwind instruments and it is the best of the best.”
The corps is comprised of 150 brass, percussion, and color guard members, ages 15 to 22, who perform an 11-minute show that integrates artistic and athletic skill in an entertaining display of outdoor pageantry, according to www.spiritdrumcorps.org.
After graduating from DHS in 2015 and being a member of the marching band as well as holding the position as drum major for his senior year, he knew that music would still be present in his life even after high school.
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He auditioned for the corps in November of last year even though he had only been playing a mellophone for the previous 10 months. He was then offered a contract to be a member for the upcoming year.
“The best of the best from around the world come and audition for spots … like this year we had 600 people audition for 150 spots,” he said.
He is thrilled to be traveling and learning with many others who share his same passion.
“I became a fan a couple years ago while I was still in high school,” Francis said. “I didn’t want to be a fan anymore, I wanted to do it. I wanted to represent something bigger than me. I wanted to do something amazing and this was my opportunity to do that.”
He is proud to represent his alma mater, his county and state.
“My family has been super supportive and they think it is the coolest thing ever,” he said. “I really feel like I have achieved something great.”
Spirit of Atlanta is a member of Drum Corps International, a governing body that facilitates summer educational events, performances, and competitions for drum and bugle corps across the United States, the website said.
After six weeks of training and physical conditioning, the corps traveled around the country to Florida, Texas, Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Mississippi and New York to several different competitions.
He was recently in Indiana for the Drum Corps International World Championship, where more than 35 drum and bugle corps compete for the world championship.
Their 11-minute show is entitled “Georgia” and depicts a love story in six different movements of music. It is also the corps 40th anniversary of being founded.
“It is a small innuendo of the corps history because if its anniversary,” Francis said.
There are two characters throughout the show named George and Georgia who fall in love, he said.
“The opening set is an introduction of the two characters and then it moves into a piece called ' Pursuit, ' where they start pursuing each other,” he said. “It then it goes into the love stance which is Elvis Presley’s ‘I Can’t Help, but Falling in Love with You. ' ”
The show slowly uncovers a conflict, where a movement called " Temptation " is performed.
“George messes up basically and he starts being tempted by other girls and he is sad and upset and the music portrays that,” he said. " Then it goes into ‘Renewal’ and George apologizes and the beginning of the piece is really apologetic.”
The shows ends with many songs dedicated to many songs related to the state of Georgia including “Sweet Georgia Brown , ” “Georgia on My Mind , ” and other southern songs played back in the 1970s.
Francis admits what they do is exhausting, but worth it.
“I have learned how to not let little things get to me anymore,” he said. “If something messes up, it messes up … fix it and go on. It doesn’t matter if we have a bad day of rehearsal, we still have to perform.”
He has found out through his hard work that no matter how bad things get , they will get better.
“It is an honor to be a part of this organization and it is just incredible,” Francis said.
Francis has plans to attend Lenoir-Rhyne University for music education in the fall and wants to pursue becoming a band director or possible be employed by a drum and bugle corps as a visual and music technician.
“I love to do it and there is no sense it not doing what you love,” he said.
For more information about Spirit of Atlanta, visit www.spiritdrumcorps.org or visit their Facebook page “Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps.”
Staff Writer Jonelle Bobak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-432-8907.