TIFTON-- Seven of Tift County High School's elite Blue Devil Brigade Marching Band members are spending their summer in quite an interesting way, touring the country.

The local students will be members of Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps based out of Lexington, Ky. Basically a professional competition marching unit, the corps and hundreds like it across the nation travel during the summer months doing shows around the country.

The students -- Joseph Gill, Chris Miller, Cara McGarian, Jessie Anderson, Josh King, Trey Leonard, and Peter Inglett -- have already moved to Lexington for the summer.

The corps are members of a larger entity known as Drum Corps International (DCI), which is a global association that organizes the shows and sponsors the rigorous World Championships at the end of every marching season.

Woody Leonard, director of Bands at Tift County High School, said that drum corps experience seems to have a positive impact on students lives both in and out of the music world.

According to Leonard, Rickey Savage, the current director of Tift County High's marching band, helped to first expose the students to drum and bugle corps life. Since then, the response from students to try and participate in the corps has grown drastically.

What makes the Tifton students so different from other members of their own corps is the number of them participating.

According to DCI officials, out of hundreds of applications received by any individual corps, only a small number can be taken. In Southwind's case, 132 were accepted.

Students interested in the corps are sent a piece of music to practice and must prepare their own piece of music.

Students then go to wherever their corps is based and audition for a spot.

Rarely do two or three students from one town ever make the cut, much less six.

"After seeing what these students go through over the past year, I have real positive feeling about these kids and that program," Leonard said.

After making the cut, students travel to Lexington each month from January through May, when they pack up their gear and move into the small school that the corps has taken over.

Over the grueling two weeks that follow, known as Everydays, the group will put the finishing touches on an intricate and intense marching show.

The group will spend the next three months touring the U.S. before returning to school and book work in August.

For more information on drum corps or Southwind go to www.dci.org, or www.southwind.org.

To contact reporter JD Sumner, call 382-4321, ext. 207

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