One Entitled Millennial
By: Brandon Olander
Before sharing my story, I should note that I am not a millennial, but rather, a Generation Z baby. Nevertheless, I feel that the sentiment of millennial-bashing would extend to myself and my peers, so it only seems appropriate to write this. In an age of unsurpassed spreading of information and cynicism, I could not think of a better way to add a voice of positivity and hope than to share my story on a platform like this: one that highlights the value being created in the world by young people.
How it all began...
My passion for drum corps started when I was 10 and happened upon a YouTube video of the Concord Blue Devils drumline. I begged my parents for sticks and a drum pad, and soon began practicing for 5 or 6 hours each day, teaching myself rudiments and learning how to follow along to drum corps snarelines. I attended my first Blue Devils audition at 12, dreaming that one day I could become a member of the corps.
Making the cut.
Becoming skilled enough to make the cut for the Blue Devils was one of the greatest challenges I faced, especially with my being so young relative to most marching members, and I feel as though I could write an entire book describing that journey. At 10, I was diagnosed with brachyolmia, a rare genetic disorder that led to scoliosis, kyphosis, and underdeveloped vertebrae in my spine. This, in combination with my short stature, felt like it would be impossible to overcome to be able to march with a snare drum on my body all of the time. But, my doctor suggested that such an activity might actually help me to build the muscles necessary to counteract my condition and strengthen my back.
So, I spent my middle school and high school years working out daily, practicing marching with a drum, and getting involved in the marching arts in every way I could. I joined an independent indoor drumline, mostly comprised of college and high school students, in the 6th grade, and spent three years with them. I then marched in my high school’s marching band and winter drumline. At 15, I made the cut for my first world class drum corps, and the following year, was accepted into the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps.
I was incredibly fortunate in my first two years with the Blue Devils to win two Drum Corps International World Championships. In my first season, the corps was undefeated, and set the all-time record for a DCI Finals score with a 99.65. My second season, the drumline also won the Fred Sanford Award for High Percussion, and I won the DCI Performers Showcase Snare Drum Solo competition with my solo, "Backseat Freestyle." I completed my third season with the corps last year, and had the opportunity to be featured on FUSE TV’s docu-series Clash of the Corps.
This activity has truly set the backdrop for my adolescence and I could not be more grateful for the opportunities I have been granted. It has entirely cemented my belief in the importance of the arts, of creating equal opportunities for young people in the arts, and by extension, civic engagement and approaching politics and society with young people and art in mind. I think people need look no further than drum corps to find that young people are not only creating and accomplishing, but are innovating and pushing art forms to their fullest potential.