The training was grueling. Drum Corps International's exclusive World Class Corps was a boot camp of sorts this summer that had Brooke Wallace working the hardest she ever had in her life. Sure, Wiregrass High band director George Deguzman and guard director Linzy Brown had told her it was going to be tough. They warned her that practice with the color guard at Wiregrass High was nothing like this. Not even close.
That's why they call DCI "Marching Music's Major League." Those who make it are the best of the best in brass, percussion and color guard. Musician athletes.
Practice included a month of physical conditioning at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. Tossing and spinning flags. Learning the drill and pounding it out from 7 a.m. till midnight most days.
"Sometimes we started at 6," Brooke, 17, said. "One night we got 15 minutes of sleep."
"You get tired but you have to push through," she said. "Focusing is the hardest part. You have to make it look easy — like you could do it in your sleep."
Then, the tour with the World Class Drum Corps called Spirit. Brooke took part in about 35 performances over two months in states including Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Ohio and New York. She slept on high school gym floors. She rode the bus. And she learned what true friendship means when a guard mate ran the extra laps Brooke earned for messing up even though she didn't have to.
Brooke called her parents often during the first two months. "Mom and Dad, get me a plane ticket," she would say. "I'm coming home."
But the last few weeks it really clicked. So she stuck it out.
And she's glad she did.
The 2008 World Championships in Bloomington, Ind., ended up being a blast.
"It's kind of like the Super Bowl, but for marching band," Brooke said.
They showed it on ESPN and in the movie theater in Westfield Citrus Park. Brooke had a close-up.
Now back at home, Brooke's still spinning as captain of the color guard at Wiregrass High.
And she's planning on another stint with DCI.
"It was amazing," she said. "The hardest thing I've ever done and the most fun.
"Auditions are in November."