Aging out can be tough. The excitement, the friends, the whole unique, inside
view of the drum corps world, is suddenly gone. Some people, like Eric O'Connor
and Susie Berry have found a way to make that separation a little easier.
O'Connor, last year's Blue Devils drum major and a new graduate of Drake
University in Des Moines, Iowa is spending the summer as a DCI intern, traveling
with his camera to photograph shows. "I want to ease my way out, just be
around for a little while longer," he said.
Berry, 26, a Concord native who started with B Corps in 1990, was an A Corps
color guard member from 1992 through 1996 and winter guard member from 1996-98
and still travels with the corps. She has been working out of the souvenir trailer
as she completed college.
But Berry's commitment to the Blue Devils was never limited to being simply
a member of one of the marching units. For several years Susie also taught color
guard to both B and C Corps. Several students Susie worked with have gone on
to march with A Corps and one with the Cadets. Another student Susie taught
in Blue Devils B Corps a few years ago is guard captain this year with the Cavaliers.
It's a lot of fun for her to see those kids performing and to know that she
had an impact on their lives, she says.
"I just love being with my friends," Berry said. In the booth, the
outgoing Berry loves talking to people who come to the booth. "It's amazing
to see the same people come to shows year after year, the familiar faces." Her
family also has always been involved, traveling to championships each year for
For O'Connor, both coming to and leaving the Blue Devils was a a big event.
The drum major of the Kitchener, Canada-based Kiwanis Cavaliers from 1997-99
he admired and dreamed of joining the Blue Devils. "Their professionalism,
the way they carried themselves, was amazing to me. You've got to understand,
when you're in a young, small corps, the top three corps are gods. "
Daunted, he waited years to try out for the Blue Devils himself before finally
trying out last year. "I should have tried out three years before," he
O'Connor's last performance was even more emotional. "I had three goals
last year: to be a Blue Devil, to be in the top 12, and to conduct America/Oh,
Canada (at a DCI weekend show , an honor that goes each year to the champion
corps -- O'Connor was able to fulfill this dream when BD won the regional
contest in Indianapolis).
He accomplished all three goals, but the story about what happened after
he accomplished the final goal is exceptional. He had told his girl friend,
Sue Bernardo, how exciting being inside the circle and hearing the BD brass
up close was to him, and asked her to come to the recording session where the
corps was to play its show. He wanted her to hear what it was like to be inside
the crescent of the Blue Devils horn line when they played, too.
With Sue standing beside him during the warm-up for the recording, "I told
the corps how important her support was to me as I went after my goals, how
she was my best friend, and I wanted her to be my wife. I proposed to her right
there." She accepted.
Friends who knew he was going to propose were ragging before hand, telling
him he'd flub the words at that emotional moment. "I got through it. It
was pretty amazing." The
moment was captured on the 2000 Blue Devils DVD and can be heard at the end
of the recording.
For O'Connor, this final summer will be enough. "I'm ready to move on.
Drum corps great, I learned an incredible amount, but it's time to move on."
Berry, who starts to work as a kindergarten teacher this fall, isn't so sure. "I
will still have summers off as a teacher," she said. "At this point,
I would do (the souvenir trailer) again."