AVON LAKE — For the drum and bugle corps that took the field at Avon Lake High School on Saturday, the competition was just another step toward finals in Indianapolis next week. But for some corps members, it was a chance to perform the shows they’ve been working on for weeks in front of family and friends. For Nick Lawwill, of Grafton, it was a chance to come home.
Drum Corps International, or DCI, is “marching music’s major league,” with corps comprised of musicians 14 to 21 years old from across the country. The shows that groups perform are more intricate and theatrical than normal half-time shows, and Saturday’s Shoremen Brass Classic at Avon Lake High School was no different, featuring performances by eight different corps.
Lawwill, 17, marched lead trump for Shadow, a three-year-old corps based in Oregon, Wis. But Saturday was not the first time he’d marched at Avon Lake. A recent graduate from Midview, he remembers marching half-time shows at football games in the stadium, and enjoyed the chance to come back on a more competitive level.
“Honestly, it’s so different (to perform here) than a show somewhere totally different from your home,” he said. “I’ve marched on this field with Midview, so coming back here just meant so much to me.”
Lawwill said his parents and several friends from Midview came to cheer him on Saturday evening, adding to the occasion.
“It really meant a lot to me because that’s where I came from,” he said. “I came from them, I came from the program that they’re in now and it just shows them that they can do whatever they want (if) they set their minds to it.”
This is Lawwill’s second year with Shadow, an open class corps, but he knew he wanted to join a corps since he attended a DCI competition in Massillon in 2014. He plans to continue next year, though he is looking to move into a world class group like Bluecoats or Carolina Crown next year.
“This is much more competitive and everybody who is here wants to be here, and they’re all so passionate,” he said. “It’s a great group of people to surround yourself with.”
Daphne Boston, of Hartville, drove up to watch the competition because her son, Tannor, also is marching with Shadow this year. She piled a car full of family, friends and signs and made the trip to support the 15-year-old in his first season with the corps.
“We love it, we even made posters to cheer him on,” she said. “We bought a bunch of tickets, passed them out to family, passed them out to people in church, and our drive here was like an hour and a half or less, so we just are so blessed to have such good weather and friends to cheer on my kid.”
Michelle Vega, of North Ridgeville, has come to the last four Shoremen Brass Classics, as several of her children participated in marching band. Her daughter, Marissa, 15, marched with the Buckeye All-Star band, which played the national anthem before the competition started Saturday evening.
“It’s cool,” she said, of seeing her daughter on the field. “I love Friday nights, but it’s nice to see her volunteer for something beyond.”
She said she hopes her kids take away the importance of horn angles, air flow, hitting the right notes and striving to be better musicians when watching the corps perform. And Vega noted the importance of having a show like the Brass Classic in Lorain County.
“It’s huge because all of the arts are primarily in Cuyahoga County and primarily on the eastside, so to have something like this here,” she said. “(It) makes a big difference to have arts available on the west side of Cleveland, as opposed to having to drive all the way to the east side.”
While Michelle Vega is a fan of marching band, her husband, Gabriel Vega, leans more toward football. But that didn’t stop him from enjoying the night’s performances.
“It’s a different version of marching band,” he said. “So it’s interesting to learn about the other side — competition I guess is what it is.”
For Michelle Vega, like others in attendance, it’s hard to describe what happens on field during each corps’ set.
“Being in band … you feel it, and you were either in or you’ve come to support your kids,” she said. “It’s just a feeling, an emotion that pulls you in and draws you in.”
Lawwill would agree. He calls his time with Shadow “life-changing” and urges anyone interested and eligible to join to do so.
“I would say, it’s just 11 minutes of art that you’ve never seen before, and it’s just totally different from what you ever experience,” he said. “There’s no good way to describe it; just come watch it.”