Grayson Gayle spent his last summer before college traveling by bus, sleeping on the floors of gymnasiums and marching nearly every day in the scorching sun.All for the love of music.The Colleyville native played 36 competitive shows with Carolina Crown, one of the nation’s top drum and bugle corps. At the end of the summer season, the Crown claimed drum corps’ top prize at the Drum Corps International championship.“Performing is pretty special,” Gayle said. “Especially in front of all those people.”Gayle’s experience with drum corps started during his senior year at Colleyville Heritage High School.“In the fall, I started looking up YouTube videos of all the drum corps and what it’s about and how it works and how the audition process works,” he said. “It wasn’t until that year that I knew enough about it to make a decision.”Next, Gayle had to choose a corps and audition. He set his sights on one of his favorites, South Carolina-based Carolina Crown. “Being with Crown would be like being with the best team in the NFL,” he said. “The best, just being the best, and that’s where I wanted to be.”Drum corps are competitive-level performances of large groups of musicians and color guard that use their instruments, movements and more to create a show traditionally on a football field. Drum Corps International includes 23 world-class corps from across the country including The Crossmen from San Antonio and the Blue Devils from California. In the summer, about 3,500 performers ages 13-22 participate with those corps. Most are college students majoring in music who want to compete at a high level. DCI has been around for more than four decades.Gayle attended several camps during the audition process, and in January he signed a contract to perform with the corps over the summer. Musicians are not paid for performing. Gayle said the experience was rewarding enough.He said his experience with the Colleyville Heritage Panther band, where he was a section leader and band president, helped him land a spot with the Crown.“I always liked to perform in marching band,” he said. “Just leadership qualities and being able to perform. I’m a good player and marcher, and all-around guy for the activity.”Gayle began playing the trumpet in the 6th grade but switched to the mellophone for the drum corp. He played alongside 149 musicians and color guard members through the summer-long season. He said it was a great way to see the country.“Touring all over the country, we visited places like San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Antonio, big cities,” he said. “We played at professional stadiums, Atlanta [Georgia Dome], Buffalo Bills [Ralph Williams] Stadium...”He said his favorite place to play was at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the Drum Corps International championships, where he performed in front of more than 20,000 people. The season comes to an end with a three-night championship. The drum corps with the best scores advance through a series of preliminary, semifinal and final performances. One is crowned the champion.But getting there was not easy. Gayle said they spent many nights sleeping on a bus or laying down sleeping bags on a gym floor at a middle or high school.“I didn’t sleep in a bed for three months,” he said.Recently, he moved into his dorm room at the University of Texas at Austin where he plans to study business.“I’m not stopping music, but I don’t think it’s what I want to do for a job,” he said. “It’s just a hobby of mine and I love it.”While he won’t be marching in burnt orange, Gayle said he plans to continue playing with smaller ensembles at school and church.
Dustin L. Dangli, 817-390-7770 Twitter: @dustindangli