Just halfway through his first summer tour with Drum Corps International, Mason Rhue already seems to know the ropes.
“It’s 24/7 — travel, rehearse, show, repeat,” the former Broken Arrow High School musician said on Monday, trying to sum up the experience during a tour stop in Tulsa.
But the payoffs, added Rhue, are worth the grueling schedule.
“It’s all about the social environment. All these people are my family,” he said of his fellow musicians.
The Drums of Summer competition, featuring seven top-ranked junior drum and bugle corps, returns Tuesday to Broken Arrow’s Memorial Stadium.
It will be a homecoming for Rhue, who plays with the Concord, California-based Blue Devils. The 2016 Broken Arrow graduate played at the stadium as a four-year member of the Pride marching band. He’s looking forward to playing again for family and friends.
Drums of Summer, which doubles as a fundraiser for the Pride and other Broken Arrow Bands programs, is part of Drum Corps International’s annual Tour of Champions.
The competing groups are made up of high school and college musicians, including several from the Tulsa area.
They spent the afternoon Monday rehearsing at their respective host schools across the area.
The defending tour champion Blue Devils feature 152 performers from across the country. They rehearsed at Union High School’s stadium.
Joining Rhue, who plays the vibraphone in the corps’ front ensemble, was 2015 Union graduate Luke Bland, a tuba player.
It’s Bland’s second year with the Blue Devils, after trying out twice previously but not making the cut, he said.
“When I was 17, I made the commitment to myself that I wanted to be a Blue Devil,” said Bland, who now attends the University of Tulsa.
Auditions for the unit draw top talent from around the world.
When he finally made it in, Bland said, “it was pretty incredible. There were some tears.”
Drum Corps International is the nonprofit governing body that oversees junior drum and bugle corps in the U.S. and Canada. The organization’s 2018 Summer Tour includes 109 shows in 37 states, with 47 drum corps participating. It culminates Aug. 11 with the World Championship Finals in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Along with the Blue Devils, the event on Tuesday boasts four other previous champions, including the Bluecoats (Canton, Ohio), Santa Clara Vanguard (Santa Clara, California), The Cavaliers (Rosemont, Illinois) and Phantom Regiment (Rockford, Illinois). Rounding out the field are two other top units, the Blue Knights (Denver) and Boston Crusaders (Boston).
The summer tour arrived in Tulsa after a stop in St. Louis. After Tuesday’s performance, they are bound for Katy, Texas.
For spectators on Tuesday, Rhue promises an entertaining show:
“How I would describe it is take a high school band, add steroids and a lot more funding.”