Collin Rishell was a high school freshman in Spanish Fort, Alabama, when his band director took him and the other band members to watch a Drum Corps International competition. What he saw was something like a massive Broadway show, with a big sound and elaborate choreography.
Six years later, Rishell, 19, is a second-year drum major for Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and is one of three local groups competing at the Georgia Dome for the DCI Southeastern Championship. Like the other 26 competitors, Spirit consists of 150 high school– and college-aged percussionists, brass, and color guard members, some of whom travel from as far away as Japan. When full-time rehearsals begin in May, members rehearse for 12 hours a day in the Atlanta heat. “I do it to attain that higher level,” says Rishell. “But I also do it for this family I come back to every year.”
This article originally appeared in our July 2016 issue.