Senior Conner Bell recognized with a contract offer for professional drum corps

Emma Niland , Staff Writer

By Emma Niland

Senior Conner Bell was recently offered a contract to play french horn professionally in competitions across the country for one of the most prestigious drum corps in the country: Drum Corps International.

Drum Corps International is “a summer-long experience where people the ages of 17 to 22 compete professionally in marching band competitions across the U.S,,” said Bell. This is a tremendous honor, one that junior Gabe Boyd received as well for Spirit of Atlanta previously. Unlike Boyd, however, Bell turned down his offer.

“Drum corps is basically a next-level marching band,” said marching band director and band teacher John Boyd. He also said that the majority of drum corps are comprised of solely college kids, so Bell being offered a contract for Drum Corps International is rare.

Bell had never planned on auditioning because he thought he wasn’t good enough. “My good friend Megan McCombs encouraged me for weeks to audition and wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Bell said. This led to Bell eventually giving in and agreeing to audition for the drum corps.

Bell and McCombs met through band last year when McCombs was a senior at Hickory High School, and she was also offered a contract for the same drum corps last year. “She’s amazing and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for her,” Bell gushed. 

“I actually auditioned for [Drum Corps International] twice,” Bell said, “because the second time I went down to audition it was a call-back.”

Both auditions were held in Fort Mills, South Carolina, which made it difficult for Bell to attend, but with the help of his parents, Bell made it to the December audition and then the call-back in January.

Not only did Bell get an offer from this drum corps, but according to John Boyd he also made Crown, which is one of the top five in the country. Bell’s hard work and determination throughout the past four years have paved the way for his success.

Bell hasn’t always been interested in music. Up until freshman year, Bell played baseball and spent a lot of his free time playing sports. However he decided to audition for marching band at PA under the direction of John Boyd the summer before his first year of high school.

“A high school kid making drum corps only happens if [he or she] is exceptional, and that’s Conner,” John Boyd said.

Senior Ethan Richardson has been friends with Bell since middle school, and agrees that Bell is one of a kind. “In short, he is incredible,” Richardson said. “He has been the best leader anyone could ask for and is beyond talented.” 

Bell knows the honor that comes with being offered a spot to play for Drum Corps International. However, for him spending time with friends and family this summer is most important. “I don’t really think I want to spend a lot of my summer traveling. I want to be with my friends and family in Virginia Beach.”  

Bell hopes to major in neuroscience at Virginia Tech, and will find out if he has been accepted in the next few weeks. “I’m really interested in learning about music therapy which will go hand-in-hand with my major, neuroscience,” he said. 

Bell said he is really thankful for his friends and parents for supporting him, but he is most thankful for McCombs for pushing him to audition. “I never would’ve known my potential as a musician if it weren’t for her.”