I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates
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Mike Embrey the Music Man
By Barry Schrader.................................August
Dee Palmer is unquestionably the music maker
for DeKalb County, but Mike Embrey could be called the music
Unlike Professor Higgins in the Broadway
hit Music Man, Embrey isnt trying to sell instruments
to kids, but rather provide first class musical entertainment
to this part of northern Illinois. His company, Funme Events,
is based in DeKalb, and he organizes shows of all types
Broadway revues, tattoos, concerts and parades, among other activities.
Embreys latest accomplishment was bringing
back a national drum and bugle corps show with 11 corps participating
in the week of events at the end of July. The national competition
was held here for 25 years, and then it was wooed away to Kalamazoo,
Mich., five years ago.
Embrey said this was just
a sample of what the community could have here again each year
national drum corps competing with the related parade,
concerts and practice events. But it will take a commitment on
the part of the City of DeKalb and corporate sponsors.
have to show the National Drum Corps Association it is wanted
and will be supported, Embrey said.
music man and I have something in common: we both spent our high
school years as horn players in a school band, both have a love
for drum and bugle corps and were involved in some musical groups
in our earlier lives.
Concord Blue Devils B corps took
place at DeKalb competitionMike Embrey announcing the
Besides my days as a horn player with Paul Buzzell and Donna
Ewald at Genoa-Kingston High School, where we played under the
direction of music teacher Roy Hubbell, I also served as Explorer
Post adviser for a drum corps called the Tri-Valley Royalaires
in California for a couple of years. It gave me a lifelong appreciation
for the drum corps movement, and I attend their events whenever
Embrey has a much more impressive background.
Besides being a member of a drum corps during high school and
college while he majored in music, he served during the Vietnam
War era as a soprano bugler in the Air Force Academy drum and
bugle corps. After that, his life has been pretty much all about
music to this day.
Asked what it takes to organize
a drum corps these days, Embrey said flatly a quarter of
a million dollars. He recalls when starting out he (or
his parents) had to come up with $250 a year to be a part of
a corps. Now, kids need to raise $1,500 to participate. Then
the parents must get involved in major fundraising to support
the corps for six to nine weeks of travel nationwide each season,
which involves big buses, equipment trucks and a chuckwagon.
Uniforms and instrument purchases, plus the related food costs
and instructor salaries, all add up to big bucks.
sat next to a father from the Concord (Calif.) BlueDevils B Corps
for the competition at the NIUs Huskie Stadium and learned
what a loyal following each corps has.
fly anywhere in the country to watch their kids perform and,
of course, that means economic benefits for the communities that
host the shows.
The DeKalb area gains something
from the visitors spending time and money here, as well as the
local businesses that provide food, diesel fuel and even instrument
repairs for the groups while they are on the road.
found out from Embrey what a rich drum corps history DeKalb County
has. In 1920, after World War I, the returning veterans formed
a drum corps through the American Legion that lasted all the
way to World War II days. Going inactive during that war, it
soon was resurrected by the returning vets through the Legion.
They turned it over to the community in the early 1950s, and
it became the DeKalb Barons, but only lasted a few years.
At that time, there were 25 active corps throughout
Illinois, Embrey said. Those numbers have experienced a major
decline, so there are only a handful left in the Midwest today.
But the big ones still remain the Madison Scouts, the
Dubuque Colts, the Cavaliers and the Phantom Regiment, for example.
So the question remains: will DeKalb provide the
resources to attract the national competition back here, and
will we be able to see more shows like we did in July once again
at the NIU stadium? I sure hope so.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115