RACINE - While many pass humid summer days inside with air conditioning, students in the Lighthouse Brigade of Racine practice outdoors in high temperatures for hours on end.
While many other teenagers work summer jobs or hang out with friends, those in the Racine Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps also spend long, sweaty days practicing for summer performances that will take them across the country.
This summer both local marching units, who practice most days from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., will make use of all that practicing at shows and competitions in other U.S. cities and at area performances featuring bands and corps from across the country and Canada.
"You talk about youth in Racine and all the negative press, and here we have kids working 9 to 9 out in the hot sun," said Lighthouse Brigade Director Rex Rukavina. "It's just an amazing group of kids. I consider them ambassadors of Racine Unified and our city."
The Lighthouse Brigade
The Lighthouse Brigade, which just celebrated their 30th anniversary, was founded in 1980 as a way to extend Racine Unified music programming into the summer to allow directors and students to better prepare for football half-time shows. The marching band quickly grew into its own competitive summer organization for students in grades eight to 12, who compete each year in the Mid-America Competing Band Directors' Association circuit.
The band, this year made up of 55 kids mostly from Racine Unified schools, will compete in that circuit's championship this year in Traverse City, Mich., on July 9. Before that performance, they'll travel the state and parts of Illinois, performing in select cities as well as a few Racine venues, Rukavina said.
The Racine Scouts
Racine Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps was founded in 1927 as a Boy Scout music organization and they are the oldest continuously operating drum and bugle corps in the country. They are similar to the Lighthouse Brigade marching band except that they do not have woodwinds, which makes them a drum and bugle corps.
The corps, which includes people between the ages of 14 and 21, competes in the summer months throughout the U.S. and Canada with its season ending in August at the Drum Corps International World Championships in Indianapolis. For those performances, the Racine Scouts will travel more than 3,000 miles this summer, spending time in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Washington, D.C.
In D.C., the corps will perform as part of the Boy Scouts of America 100th anniversary celebration. The Racine Scouts, this year including about 45 people from around the U.S., will play several days at a centennial jamboree event and will also lead a commemorative parade down Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, said corps manager Andrea Birbilis.
"For these kids to partake in something like this where they can actually see a sitting president is huge," she said. "A lot of these kids would never have access to this otherwise. Hopefully this is a memory they can carry with them forever."